Monday, June 9, 2014

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole (audio)

"You glided over to me and, as I was struggling to think of something intelligent to say, you said 'There you are.'  I often think of that, Sue.  Here I am.  No matter where I am in the world, 'Here I am.' "

Goodreads Summary: 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.

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This novel is told completely in letters: in 1912 between Elspeth and David and years later in 1940 between Margaret and Paul and Margaret and her mother.  The style reminded me a bit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow - another novel told through letters.  I loved the idea of letter writing - something that is rare in today's modern world of texts and emails.  With all of the instant communication, it's hard to imagine a time when it messages would take weeks to reach someone!  There is something wonderfully romantic about getting to know someone and falling in love through letters.

Brockmole tells the epic love story of Elspeth and David, who develop an unexpected correspondence when David writes Elspeth a fan letter after reading her book of poetry.  They quickly realize they have a lot in common and their friendship slowly develops into something more.  The two fall in love in unexpected circumstances - Elspeth is already married and David has recently enlisted as an ambulance driver in France. Over the years, the two struggle with finding a way to make their relationship work.  Call me old-fashioned, but it sort-of bothered me that Elspeth was developing a relationship with David when she was married to someone else (similar to how I felt about the characters in Loving Frank by Nancy Horan).  I understood where they were coming from, but I still didn't exactly like it.  That being said, the situation did bring about a lot of complex emotions and decisions that might not have otherwise been there.  

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I was a little cliche at times, but I liked the story really liked the author's description of the time period and setting (particularly the island of Skye).  It was also really interesting to read Elspeth and David's letters while learning about Margaret's journey to find out about her mother's past.

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