The epistolary novel might just be my favorite form of writing. There’s something so intriguing and personal about the format. Especially now. Handwritten notes and letters are a rarity in the digital age. And, every time I start or finish an epistolary novel, I make a vow that I will send more handwritten notes. (Sadly, I’m not so good at following up with that vow to myself. I need to work on that.)
Letters from Skye is the debut novel from Jessica Brockmole and it’s wonderful. The story begins when a fan of poet Elspeth Dunn writes her a note expressing his admiration for her work. A correspondence develops – he in Illinois, she on the Isle of Skye off the coast of Scotland. David and Elspeth, whom he calls Sue in his letters, exchange letters for a number of years in the early 1900’s.
And then comes the outbreak of World War I.
As David and Elspeth’s letters go from cordial to more personal, they realize that there is more between them than a simple pen-friendship. The complications of war, family, bonds, and commitments are an ever-present threat to the love that the pair feels for one another. And yet, neither can deny that something very powerful is between them.
The story is told through a few narrators – the letters of Elspeth, her daughter, Margaret, Margaret’s friend Paul, Elspeth’s brother Finlay, and, of course, David. Amid the wit and humor in the letters is a respect and even a mystery. As we, the readers, step forward from the first World War into the second, we step into a new journey with Margaret, who is trying to uncover what her mother has always called her “first volume;” her life before Margaret was born.
All in all, I have to say this is going to be a long-held favorite of mine. The characters are strong and feel real and, as David and Sue fell in love, I did, too. Moving, memorable, and most definitely a five-star read.