A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.
March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.
June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As soon as I read the blurb, I couldn’t wait to delve in and I wasn’t disappointed. In epistolary format, the book spans generations from WWI through to WWII. I’m a fan of war novels – I’m not sure why, so this book really appealed to me. I love stories told through the medium of letters. Reading letters feels beautifully voyeuristic and allows real insight into the characters, offering a depth not there in more traditional storytelling. From the first fan letter David sends to young poet Elspeth, through their blossoming friendship, Brockmole manages to perfectly capture their romance. I really like the characters of Elspeth and David, finding myself completely invested in their love story. Where this book really excels however, is with its descriptions which are perfectly written.
This book makes me a little nostalgic for the lost art of letter writing. I would much rather receive a carefully thought out, hand written letter than a typo ridden text any day.
I give Letters from Skye 4/5.