Having watched Harold Fry’s inexorable progress up the bestseller charts – partly, we’d like to think, because of the influence of our Book of the Year – the time had come for reading group 1 (or is it 2?) to discuss the unlikely pilgrimage.
As the only man in the group, I consider it my duty to be that speck of grit that has to get into the oyster to create the pearl. So I make no apology for fulfilling the role enthusiastically (some might say too much so) because we did, indeed, have a very good discussion.
Perhaps it was inevitable, having been aware of the book for so long, that the acualité was a little disappointing to this reader. Practicalities like the fact that a man – even in his sixties – can average 3 miles an hour over the kind of terrain Harold is travelling and yet he regularly clocks up 5, 6, ooh, sometimes 7 miles a day. What was he doing with the other 5 or 6 hours if walking was his sole activity?
Also, hailing from the north east as I do, I can accept a dog-leg to Hexham but then to detour to Wooler and Kelso would suggest a feebleness of mind requiring an enforced stay in a darkened room. (Let me hasten to add that there is nothing wrong with either Northumbrian town but no way are they stopping off points en route to Berwick.)
These quibbles aside, I did enjoy the book but am going to put my deeper misgivings down to my gender. Which is why I would very much like to hear from any other men who’ve tackled this book to see if I’m in need of that darkened room myself.
PS We all agreed that Jim Broadbent should expect a call when the film is cast!