EPISTOLARY ART: A novel told (completely) through letters. Not unique, but definitely special when 20 countries have already bought the rights to it, and it’s by a debut author, with US publication not until July 9, 2013. That may be enough of an intrigue for you to want to read it. It was for me.
The Isle of Skye, off the western coast of Scotland, is not the typical UK setting we find in novels. Thanks to Jessica Brockmole, who lived in Scotland for several years and has peppered her charming, lyrical and sometimes comedic writing style with Gaelic words, you will get a sense of the language and culture of this sparse Scottish Highlands area – words like filvver and croft and plait and neeps and swedes; phrases such as “tang of the bog myrtle” and “warm smell of hay in the byre.”
Add to that multiple letter writers hailing from two historic timeframes, WWI and WWII, who reveal to us a mystery of an evolving love story that took place during WWI and is being solved during WWII – details that are slowly revealed in this fast paced story – I think you may have the reason for the interest and excitement in this finely-crafted novel.
The story innocently begins in 1912, with the exchange of letters between two “friendly correspondents” – David Graham of Illinois, a college student, and Elspeth Dunn of Skye, a twenty-something poet. The American student has discovered the Scottish poet. The beauty of this novel lies in how their relationship develops through the honesty and intimacy of letters, and the way in which the lightness of their early writings becomes lonelier and more serious as the war develops. One by one, the 1940 correspondents are introduced – Margaret, primarily, along with Paul and Finlay MacDonald and much later Harry Vance and “Riggles.” As they search for clues about Sue, and what happened to Davey, the reader is treated to an uplifting story of a long-lasting love.
Today there is a bridge that connects the Isle of Skye to the mainland (apparently on such a drive the author imagined this novel), but Elspeth’s only means to get off the island was by ferry. Creating her character as fearful of water is an important detail that enriches the story. I’m so glad to have won a copy of Letters from Skye!
Happy Reading, Lorraine