Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Reader's Opinion: LETTERS FROM SKYE by Jessica Brockmole

The Book (blurb from Amazon)

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.

Sparkling with charm and full of captivating period detail, Letters from Skye is a testament to the power of love to overcome great adversity, and marks Jessica Brockmole as a stunning new literary voice.

A Reader's Opinion
Read the blurb for a great summary of this book. This was one of those books that I started to read and wasn't sure that I would like it, but I kept reading, and I'm glad I did. I don't normally read journal or letter-style books, but this one  managed to hook me. The story moves between two time-periods, and I'll admit to enjoying Elspeth's letters a tad more than Margaret's. What kept me going was the story woven within the letters. You get just enough of a glimpse to leave you wanting more, but not too much that you feel like you're reading the most intimate thoughts and secrets of the characters.

This is a quick and easy read, and worth the time spent. I did have a couple of issues with the book. The first is that after reading one of Elspeth's poems which she sent along in a letter, she was not believable as a poet. This is a problem because her poetry is supposed to have inspired a young man to write her from the states, and from there lead to an enduring love story. It is just not believable that she would have been a published poet with multiple volumes of work. Even though her poetry was bland, her letters showed some humor and nice emotion. I do wish there had been more description of Skye.

Second, the idea that letters during the war took only a few days to travel between two war-torn countries, and that while a POW, David would have been allowed to receive care packages and receive them within a few days, just seemed too much of a stretch for me. Now, I'm not a great study of WWI, so I could be completely wrong in believing that POW's weren't treated this well, but it just didn't feel like it fit.

It's not what I expected. I did pick it up in part because it was set in Scotland, but I rarely felt like I was actual there on Skye with Elspeth. If you ignore some of these bothersome things, and focus entirely on the story within the letters, I believe you'd find an enjoyable book. It's not for everyone, but fans of sweet and romantic literary fiction would likely enjoy it, and I can honestly recommend it. I will read other books by this author.

An opinion on the book cover: I like this cover. It's fitting for both the story and time period, and I like the color scheme. I have no problem adding it to my shelf. 

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