Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Letters from Skye

Let's start this review with a story about how I came to read Letters from Skye. I interned at Random House of Canada last year and part of my duties were to mail review copies to "professional" reviewers. One day I was sending out ARCs of Jessica Brockmole's novel. I noted the title and author so I could keep an eye out when it was released in July, a few months later. Fast forward to find this novel was on the list of books that bloggers could request to review from RHC. Excellent! Fast forward another few months and I finally read this novel. For some crazy reason this book just kept getting pushed aside and I'm so annoyed at myself now. Why? It was an amazing read!

Here's the synopsis:
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 don't often read historical fiction. I don't know why. I feel like I say that every time I have a historical novel to review. I think I have this idea in my head that I don't like it very much and that's why I never read these books right away. Silly, no? Especially when the book is as good as Letters from Skye was. I really liked that there was a huge human element in addition to the history. Really, the story is more personal with history woven throughout. The story takes place during both World Wars and is told through letters. You can really get a sense of what things would have been like for those living during those times. In particular, you can see what communication would have been like. I can't imagine living then and having to wait weeks for letters. Sure, writing actual letters is awesome but not when you want to know immediately if your loved one has died in a war. I know there are an abundance of WWI and II stories but I feel like this one has a different take on the times, at least different than I've read before.

Do you ever read a book and know exactly who you're going to pass it onto next or recommend it to? I had that feeling with Letters from Skye. I know my grandma, my best friend, and my boyfriend's mom would all love this novel, too. If you, or someone in your life, love historical fiction, especially fiction that takes place during either World War, check this one out.

Some people may not like that this book was told entirely in letters. I don't mind unconventional formats usually, especially when they're done well - as I felt Letters from Skye was. Even though we're only learning about the characters through letters, I still feel like their personalities come through. In fact, I thought Elspeth was incredibly clever and I loved reading the letters between her and David.

Letters from Skye is definitely one of my favourite stories of the year. It gripped me and I even found myself tearing up at the end - in a good way - because it was so emotional and powerful. If you like historical fiction, particularly set during the World Wars, read Jessica Brockmole's novel.

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Random House of Canada, in exchange for an honest review.*

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