Book Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry  by Rachel Joyce

Published July 24, 2012

Mode read: ARC

Summary:  The book follows the story of one middle-aged man’s journey across England by foot. When Harold Fry finds out that an old co-worker is dying, he immediately leaves his home and begins the journey to say goodbye. Though many people think Harold is crazy — including his wife — he continues his journey, largely without outside help. When the media begins following Harold the purpose of his walk gets distorted and he has to fight to remember why he started his journey in the first place.

Bechdel Test?: With a male main character, this doesn’t really come up. So much of the book is focused on Harold’s inner journey that there isn’t much time to see women conversing.

Rating: 4/5

There are so many things to love about this book: the English countryside, a lovable (if a little silly) man, a broken family, an epic journey and a sweet premise. I was definitely pulled along for the ride (or walk as it were) with Harold Fry and I found myself wanting even more. If I am not mistaken, this is Joyce’s first novel and a rather amazing one at that! The only thing that would’ve made it more enjoyable for me is a little more action during certain chapters; at times I felt as though the contemplative silence Fry was feeling wasn’t quite enough to keep the story going.

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This is the Start of Something New: Book Publishing Week 1

The keynote speech was given by Markus Dohle of Random House. Though he is relatively new to publishing he really made all of us excited to enter the industry.* He spoke about how the industry is changing in really exciting ways – from ebooks to what comes after them. After Dohle’s speech he took a picture with us to use in future presentations.

Random House CEO Markus Dohle

On Tuesday we heard from several agents about their role in the book publishing process. I had no idea how important they were! So much of what I thought editors did is actually the agent’s job: first edit of the manuscript, marketing the book, convincing a publisher to take the book, etc. Later that day we had small sessions with editors where we got to review sample first draft manuscripts and discuss whether the author was right for a particular imprint. I learned that sometimes the story is more important than the writing – writing can be fixed but a story that goes nowhere cannot.

Wednesday was the first field trip day and we started with the best! Barnes and Noble at Union Square opened early just for us so that we could speak to the major buyers. Buyers at B&N are some of the last left in the industry who buy in large quantities (see demise of Borders). This means that these people make or break a book’s sales – scary! They are the real taste makers of the book world, even more than the “almighty editor.”

Children’s books started off our Thursday morning. The professionals who came to visit were so passionate about what they do and who their market is – so much more interesting than some of the previous talks! I was swept away by the idea of children’s publishing, as you’ll see in the week 2 roundup post! I also met with a Kenyon Alumni Network content on Thursday. The KCN rocks!

I spent the weekend hanging out with my cousin in Bedford, NY so I don’t have any fun pictures to show you. I promise there are lots of images for week 5!

*The program leaders (Libby and Victoria) have a bit of a contest going with us, to see how many people they can get to do book vs. magazine publishing. Markus definitely helped out Libby’s (books) case!

Check out what I did in previous weeks:

A Taste of What I’ve Been Up To: Inside Random House

Today in lieu of a real post I thought that I would give you guys a taste of what I’ve been learning in my NYU Summer Publishing Institute. I couldn’t think of a better way to share than with a really amazing video from Random House.

(Markus Dohle and the 2012 NYU Summer Publishing Institute Participants)

The CEO of Random House, Markus Dohle, came to give the keynote address earlier last week and turned my attention to this great series of YouTube videos about publishing. Without any more introduction:


Check out my previous posts about the NYU Summer Publishing Institute: