I hope you wont think me forward, but I wanted to write to express my admiration for your book…”
-Page One, Letters from Skye.
Every now and then you find a book that completely catches you by surprise, leaves you breathless and fills you with a happiness that lasts for days.
This stunning debut novel by Jessica Brockmole stole my heart away. It was a recommendation from a friend who has the most amazing ability to pick special books and I cannot thank her enough for this one. Written in letterform, this beautiful story reaches across two continents, spans two world wars and explores the power of the written word.
One day in 1912 on the Isle of Skye, Elspeth Dunn receives her first piece of fan mail written by an American college student by the name of David Graham. In it he states, with refreshing honesty that he was not really a poetry kind of person (but was usually found with a dog-eared copy of Huck Finn) and writes of his surprise at having been cheered by her collection of poetry, whilst lying in a hospital bed. Elspeth replies to his letter, equally as surprised that her ‘humble works’ had made it as far as America. What starts as an innocent correspondence gradually grows into a stunning friendship, where two people who have never met, share their worries, fears, hopes and dreams. The questions they ask and the answers they receive are layered and often there is a much bigger meaning than the one sitting on the page. In Elspeth’s own words, “I should have told you…that a letter isn’t always just a letter. Words on the page can drench the soul.”
I love the way that Jessica explores how powerful the written word is. It reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the characters, the lies and truths they hide or share and the passions of the heart, known or unknown. Without meeting, they are able to share their deepest thoughts with an honesty not always shared face to face. In a time where letter writing was the only form of communication, as the reader, you feel their anticipation, their happiness and their fear that the letter before may have been the last.
I love the way the characters grow and their histories are revealed a little bit at a time. I love the way Elspeth comes out of her shell and gains an inner confidence despite everything that she has been through. I love the way Davey grows from a young larrikin to a grown man, moving away from home to face the horrors of war and to make his way across the world in search of a love he truly believes in. I love the way Margaret (Elspeth’s daughter) finally pieces together her mother’s hidden past and learns to fall in love with her own fiancé over again.
Letters from Skye was my favourite book for 2013 and it is definitely up there in my all time favourites. A truly beautiful story!