Review and Point of View

This is a week set aside for promotion, guests and reviews. I have a special guest ready to come but she is heavily booked with her recent release, so I have my interview with her scheduled for the next ‘free’ week in two weeks.

Today I chose to review a book that was published two years ago,(in July 2012). Although it is not a new release, I have a point to make.

I read this book because I was involved in my local library’s Summer Adult Reading Program last year and one of the challenges was to read a book by an author with the same last name. I found Rachel Joyce’s “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye” on the shelf,(I had been perusing a number of Brenda Joyce volumes) and decided to give it a try .

Although it moves slowly in parts, “Harold Frye” has a captivating story that unfolds as we travel with the title character.

Harold and his wife lived in quiet retirement in the south of England until one day, Harold received a letter from a woman with whom he used to work. The woman’s letter said that she is dying and just felt the need to contact him. Harold wrote quick letter to her and then walked past first one, than another, mailbox until he goes on his ‘pilgrimage’ to see the woman, who happens to now be in the northern part of the country. One can see right away that there is more to the relationship than meets the eye, but is the truth  what one would usually suspect between a male and female co-worker?

I won’t give away any more of the plot or the revelations we see that happen involving his wife, Maureen, their son, David, and the dying woman, Queenie, along with others who attach themselves to Harold throughout his journey.

What I do want to talk about is the fact that Harold and his wife are retirement age yet, unlike most stories, they are the main characters and are portrayed as actual people.
Most novels revolve around young people, either young people on their own or young couples. I understand:Youth sells. Often there are older folks around, but they are usually secondary characters, or the catalysts. Older people are usually portrayed as wise sages, doddering oldsters or other ‘colorful characters’. They are often shown in very tight roles with very defined and limited dimensions, but in “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye”, we read the layers and depths in the lives of these characters; we see the depths of their secrets, the depths of the pain they kept in their hearts. Rachel Joyce has created a wonderful study in humanity as we travel not only with Harold physically, but with him, (Maureen, Queenie and others), as they find emotional freedom in one way or another. Most would view Harold and Maureen as past their prime, but we see that they are, indeed ,still people, with hopes and something to look forward to, if they let themselves. Life is not set in stone, they can regained what they had pushed to the side; they heal, they grow.

A bit of a spoiler, (though not really): In “Harold Fry” Queenie’s passing is one of the most sensitive and well-written scenes I have ever read. It is quite in synch with my ideas on what awaits us all.

Another writer who developed mature-but-realistic-characters is our founding Fox, author Jillian Chantel, in her “Minute” series. I’d like to see more writers do so as well.

Do you agree? Do you know of other books with mature and fully-fleshed-out protagonists?

Have you by any chance read “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye”?

About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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12 Responses to Review and Point of View

  1. Helen Pollard says:

    Haven’t read it but may well do after reading your review! I agree totally about the way older people are portrayed – I think it’s getting better in the movies as some fantastic actors have reached middle-to-old age and forged interesting roles for themselves … but books are probably still behind in this regard, and it annoys me. Older people should be more interesting to write about than younger people, when you think about it – they have more life experience, their character and personality and motives have evolved over the decades.
    So there’s a challenge for any budding writers out there!


    • There are INTERESTING roles and writings, Angie, but I’d like to see full lives and real romance without the characters being ‘characters’!
      Thanks for your input.
      I think that unless the ‘budding writers’ are late bloomers, I doubt that they would get mature folks right, not the depth of soul.
      I appreciate your consideration. If you red “Harold Frye” let me know.It does drag a bit at times, but the rest is worth it.


  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    No, I haven’t read the book about Harold Frye, but to answer your other question, yes, I do enjoy books about more mature characters. And yes, I know of several books with them! In my own book list, the main couple in The Calico Heart are of retirement age, and the same is true of my new Christmas book that will release in a few weeks. I’ve also published a short story called “Autumn Vows” with a couple in their fifties. Joselyn Vaughn wrote a beautiful love story in Hauntings of the Heart. I loved the stage play “On Golden Pond” (I’m sure the movie was good, too). And it must be a trend because I found an entire Goodreads list called “Books About Old People” that has 244 entrants – so far:


    • I am so sorry that I am so behind in my reading, Patty. (Look! We got in a promo anyway!) I need to read all of your and the other members books, and I would love to see mature people with real lives…Driving Miss Daisy comes to mind, (speaking of plays, although there is no romance there.)
      Thanks for your works and letting us all know.


  3. jeff7salter says:

    I’ve not heard of that author or that title, but I agree with you that all characters need to be fleshed out… not the least being those elderly characters.
    That was one of my primary goals in “Called to Arms Again” — which features over a dozen characters in their 80s … members of the Greatest Generation. I wanted readers to experience those scenes and say to themselves, “I know that person!” Or… better yet: “That’s ME!”


    • Jeff, I am sorry; for whatever reason, “Called to Arms Again” got started and interrupted and then I picked up on Jason and Amanda’s story,”Curing the Common Man Cold because I enjoyed “Rescued By the New Guy in Town” so much. And I thought that “Chet” was going to be a ‘colorful character’; I should have known better by the title.Thanks for putting me straight!


      • Jeff Salter says:

        no reason to apologize. You couldn’t possibly list every title with old folks depicted fully. I have a ponderous TBR pile also, so I understand how it is trying to read everything.


  4. Author says:

    I read that book too and it was really well done. Quirky but cool. Thanks for the shout out.


  5. Pingback: Sage Questions | Four Foxes, One Hound

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