“Pilgrim” by Timothy Findley (Canada)

Synopsis and Review 

“Pilgrim”: a journey well worth taking

Pilgrim is a man who cannot die. On 17 April 1912, he fails, once again, to commit suicide, his heart miraculously beginning again, hours after he is found hanging from a tree. Admitted to the Burgholzi Psychiatric Clinic in Zurich, Pilgrim begins a battle of wills with Carl Gustav Jung, self-professed mystical scientist of the unconscious.

Members of the Book Club were drawn into the story which they thought was well constructed with wonderful characters and beautifully described settings. They also enjoyed the great dialogues sprinkled with humour. From the start, readers are asked to believe that Pilgrim has lived forever. Scenes from his past are presented to the reader as dreams that have been entered in his journals. Members felt this travelling from the present to the past, from reality to illusion was particularly well done. The change of style when the story was told through Pilgrim’s journals added a poetic dimension to the novel. There were many moments when the story touched on the lives of secondary characters, both present day and from the past, who the readers found fascinating and endearing.

One reader had the impression that C.G. Jung was the real main character of the novel, along with his theory of the collective unconscious. He felt the author must have done a lot of research, and it bothered him to think the author was consciously doing this. Another reader did not like the heavy use of symbolism and felt that the story had been written to make the point of Jung’s theory. However, most of the group didn’t feel that this detracted from the novel. Overall this story had all the ingredients of a great adventure and an inspiring story, which they would highly recommend to other readers. It received a rating of 8.5 out of 10, the highest score of the season.

Nicola’s Book Club reading list

Season 3 (Feb – Jun 2006)

“Pilgrim” by Timothy Findley (Canada) *
“Mr Potter” by Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua)
“Island” by Aldous Huxley (U.K.)
“Broken Verses” by Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan)
“Distant Palaces” by Abilio Estevez (Cuba)

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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