Letter from a Stranger

Letter from a Stranger

3.5 23
by Barbara Taylor Bradford

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Justine Nolan is a documentary film maker who lost her beloved grandmother a decade ago—the person who was the only source of love and comfort in her life.  Her own mother Deborah had always been distant and uninvolved, following her own agenda in pursuit of her career as an interior designer.  But when Justine inadvertently opens a letter addressed


Justine Nolan is a documentary film maker who lost her beloved grandmother a decade ago—the person who was the only source of love and comfort in her life.  Her own mother Deborah had always been distant and uninvolved, following her own agenda in pursuit of her career as an interior designer.  But when Justine inadvertently opens a letter addressed to her mother, she discovers that not only is her grandmother Gabri alive, but that Deborah has deliberately estranged the family from her for all these years.  Justine’s search for her grandmother takes her to Istanbul where she begins to uncover the family’s secrets that stretch all the way back to World War II.  As the layers of deception peel away, Justine begins to understand a woman she never really knew…and she begins to ask questions about the true desires of her own heart. 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bradford’s latest (after Playing the Game) is a multigenerational tale set in Connecticut’s exclusive Litchfield Hills, exotic Istanbul, uptown New York, and WWII Germany. Filmmaker Justine Nolan, 32, cuts a sympathetic figure despite being tall, blonde, and successful, because all she’s ever wanted is to enjoy the loving family she was deprived of by the death of her father, her mother’s manipulations, and the disappearance of her beloved grandmother, Gabriele. When Justine opens a letter stating that Gabriele is alive and well in Istanbul, Justine jets off to find her. She reconnects with Gabriele and meets Gabriele’s lifelong friend, Anita, along with Anita’s handsome and savvy grandson, Michael. At this point, Gabriele takes over as heroine, revealing her secret past through diary excerpts. Reading about Gabriele’s trials in Nazi Germany, Justine discovers the extent of her mother’s deceptions, the depth of her grandmother’s suffering, and something about herself as well. In want or in luxury, Bradford characters live in style, from white clapboard houses in Connecticut to Turkish villas overlooking the Bosphorus. Gardens, food, clothing, and accessories—everything in Bradford’s world shows taste. If the plot turns simplistic at times, loyal fans will still tear up at the descriptions of enduring friendship and familial love. Agent: Bradford Enterprises. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
An unexpected letter leads a beautiful documentarian to Turkey, where she reunites with her long-lost grandmother. In a departure from her usual serialized family sagas, Bradford attempts a stand-alone examination of one troubled family, with uneven results. Her willowy blonde protagonist, Justine, is at Indian Ridge, her family's Connecticut vacation manse, when she opens an envelope, with no return address, only an Istanbul postmark, addressed to her mother Deborah (who's in China on business). The letter urges Deborah to end her estrangement from her mother, Gabriele, before Gabriele, nearing 80, dies. Justine is shocked! Ten years before, Deborah, whose venal, narcissistic personality traits are exemplified by her non-willowy figure and brunette hair color, had told Justine and her twin brother Richard that Gabriele was killed in a plane crash. Saying nothing to Deborah, Justine and Richard decide to track down Gabriele. In Istanbul, Justine stumbles on Gabriele and her grandmother's childhood friend Anita (the letter-writer), living in side-by-side villas. Both appear to be in the peak of health and are running a thriving interior design business. (As always, Bradford's descriptions of furnishings, fabrics and amenities are far more rigorous than her exploration of characters' psyches and motivations.) Readers are given to understand that Deborah is entirely at fault for the estrangement--until we learn about its provocation. Not only did Gabriele conceal her controlling interest in Deborah's husband's firm, but Gabriele cut off newly widowed Deborah's income, and put Indian Ridge in trust for the grandchildren, disinheriting Deborah. Nevertheless, Gabriele insists she is the innocent victim of a greedy daughter. Halfway through the novel, the emphasis shifts abruptly from the rift to Gabriele's suppressed World War II trauma, which she has nonetheless detailed in a journal that Justine reads. The journal, depicting actual jeopardy, is the novel's most compelling segment, but it, too, fails to justify Gabriele's actions. Bradford's efforts to assign the moral high ground are doomed to fail, since she can't seem to penetrate her characters' hypocrisy.
From the Publisher

“Her most exciting series yet...It's filled with romance, suspense and intrigue, and the richly detailed characters come vibrantly alive as expert pacing captures your attention from the very first page.” —RomanticTimes BOOKreviews, Top Pick, on the Ravenscar series

“Rife with dastardly internecine struggles, smoldering illicit passion, and cowardly insidious betrayals…[the Deravenels] pack as much intrigue as any Shakespearean royal drama.” —Booklist on Being Elizabeth

“The queen of the bestseller list still rules with The Heir.” —Miami Herald

“Bestseller Bradford's dynastic epic spanning the 20th century should tide over her fans...” —Publishers Weekly on the Ravenscar series

“Bradford's characters are so real, readers clamor to know them better.” —USA Today on the Ravenscar series

“This expertly crafted epic novel further explores the triumphs and tragedies of the Deravenel family. It will enthrall readers with its vivid characters and fast-paced, larger-than-life plot.” —Romantic Times BOOKreviews (4 ½ stars) on The Heir

The Ravenscar Dynasty has it all--power, betrayal, mystery...The characters are all complex, dynamic, and powerful, leading us through Edward Deravenel's struggles one exciting step at a time.” —Romance Reviews Today

“Bradford's fiction has long focused on strong heroines who succeed against great odds. Her latest novel, The Ravenscar Dynasty...is the first of a planned trilogy of novels, all destined for best-sellerdom.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“The Harte saga is as much a force of nature as a work of fiction…the issues at stake still compel readers after 25 years. Bradford understood early on readers' hunger for depictions of women who are strong and powerful and whose values embrace family. A quarter-century ago, Emma Harte crossed the no-woman's-land that once divided family and business, and now generations of readers consider her a role model in their own lives.” —The Washington Post

“A truly remarkable conclusion to her beloved Harte family saga…riveting and intense. Not many novels have the ability to completely immerse the reader, but this one draws you into the story from the very first page.” —Romantic Times BOOKreviews on Just Rewards

“Bradford gives her readers more of what she does best--strong, savvy female protagonists who relentlessly pursue great destinies, characters much like the author herself…well-written and full of emotion…completely riveting…the plot, while always complex, has suspenseful moments to keep the pace sharp…good reading…Unexpected Blessings clearly shows why Bradford is still the premier writer of family sagas.” —Miami New Times

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

    The letter, contemplated and worried about for such a long time, was finally written. But it was not mailed. Instead it was put in a drawer of the desk so that it could be thought about, the words carefully reconsidered before that last irretrievable step was taken.

     The following morning the letter was read once more, corrected and locked away for the second time. On the third day it was perused again and the words deftly edited. Satisfied that everything had been said clearly and concisely, the writer copied the final draft on a fresh piece of writing paper. This was folded, sealed in an envelope, addressed, and affixed with the correct stamps. The words air mail were written in the top left-hand corner of the envelope, which was then propped against the antique French clock on the desk.

      A short while later, the young son of the cook was summoned to the upstairs sitting room. The envelope was handed to him, instructions given, and he was told to take it to the post office at once.      

     The boy left the villa immediately, waving to the gardener as he trotted through the iron gates of the old-style Turkish yali. This was situated on the Asiatic side of Istanbul, on the shores of the Bosphorus, in Üsküdar, the largest and most historical district of the city.

     As he walked in the direction of the post office, the boy held the letter tightly in his hand, proud that he had been given such an important task by his father’s employer. He was only ten, but everyone said he was capable, and this pleased him.

     A light, balmy breeze wafted inland from the sea, carry ing with it the hint of salt and the sounds of continuous hooting from one of the big cruise ships now plowing its way down the Bosphorus, heading toward the Black Sea and new ports of call.

     The boy hurried on, intent in his purpose, remembering his instructions. . . . The letter must be put in the box marked international. It was going to America. He must not make the mistake of using the one which was for domestic mail. He was soon leaving the shoreline behind, walking up the long road called Halk Caddesi. The post office was at the top, and within minutes he found the letter box marked international and dropped the letter in the slot. He then retraced his steps.

     When the Bosphorus was in his line of vision once more, the boy began to run; he was soon pushing open the gates of the yali, heading for the kitchens. He found his father preparing lunch, and dutifully reported that he had posted the letter. His father picked up the phone, spoke to his employer, then ruffled his son’s hair, smiling down at him. He rewarded him with pieces of Turkish delight on a saucer.

     The boy went outside, sat on the step in the sunshine, munching the delicious sweetmeat. He sat there daydreaming, had no way of knowing that the letter he had just mailed would change many lives forever. And so drastically they would never be the same again.

     The writer of the letter knew this. But the consequences were of no consideration. Long ago, a terrible wrong had been done. The truth was long overdue. Finally it had been revealed, and if there was retribution then so be it. What mattered most was that a wrong could be righted.


From Letter from a Stranger by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Copyright © 2011 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

Meet the Author

BARBARA TAYLOR BRADFORD was born and brought up in England, and started her writing career as a journalist. She has written twenty-four international bestsellers. This is her twenty-sixth novel. In 2007 Queen Elizabeth awarded her the OBE for her literary achievements. She lives in New York with her husband, TV and film producer Robert Bradford.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Place of Birth:
Yorkshire, England
Christ Church Elementary School and Northcote Private School for Girls in Yorkshire, England

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Letter from a Stranger 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First of all, I love Barbara Taylor Bradford and have thoroughly enjoyed every book she has ever written and this one is no exception. It is an easy read and I really liked the characters and their relationships. Once I started reading "Letter From A Stranger" I just wanted continue reading to the end of the book and put every-thing I was supposed to do as a "domestic engineer" on "hold" - which is exactly what I did! I hope everyone who reads this book enjoys it as much as I did. Happy Reading!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have ever read by any author. A beautiful, touching tale of ficton, but with a non-fiction base. Can't say enough about how much I truly enjoyed reading "Letter From a Stranger".
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by  Book provided by Get Red PR for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book While enjoying the weekend at her family’s Connecticut home, Indian Ridge, Justine Nolan opens a letter that will change her life and those around her. She learns that her grandmother is alive and did not perish in a plane crash. For the past ten years Justine and her twin brother Richard have grieved the loss of their beloved grandmother Gabrielle. Their mother Deborah purposely had estranged herself and her children from her mother’s life. The twins agree that they must search for their grandmother immediately and Justine leaves for Istanbul to begin the most important journey of her life. Letter from a Stranger is a story about loves lost, found and the bonds that hold a family together through the darkest times. The relationship between Justine and her grandmother is touching and emotional. The fact that Justine’s own mother was so distant when she was growing up makes her reunion with Gabri so much sweeter. Finding her grandmother allows Justine to open her heart to find love with a mysterious handsome man. The secondary characters are engaging and interesting. The back-story of Anita Lowe and her friendship with Gabri is fascinating and leaves the reader wanting to learn more about her. The most moving part of the story details Gabri’s childhood growing up in Germany during World War II. The description of Germany and Europe during those years was riveting and horrifying. The images conjured with the vivid description of Istanbul are beautiful. The reader can easily picture sitting in a beautiful garden having afternoon tea or shopping in one of the markets. Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Letters from a Stranger is an intriguing story full of romance, secrets, mystery and drama. The book is a slow paced enjoyable read. Grab a cup of tea, a piece of baklava, relax and get lost in Justine’s quest for truth and the magic of Istanbul.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Disappointing and boring. The formal language was a total turn-off. Couldn't wait for it to end.
WritermomHB More than 1 year ago
Takes a Lot of Time Although I have been a fan of this author, I can’t say this is one of my favorites of her work. It takes a long time to read, as there is not much action and the interactions between characters are very long and drawn-out. While the vivid descriptions of the various locations may, in some ways, indicate the personality of the characters, I found them pretty much irrelevant, at least in this quantity. I would only recommend this book to other Barbara Taylor Bradford fans, and I think that anyone who is one, should read it.
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CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
A letter postmarked from Istanbul arrives at Justine Nolans mothers’ house in Connecticut. Knowing that it will be months before her mom, Deborah, returns, Justine opens the letter. Little did she know how the letter will change her life. The letter is written by Justine’s grandmother’s best friend asking for an end to the estrangement between Deborah and Justine’s grandmother, Gabrielle. The letter begs Deborah to let Gabrielle meet her grandkids before it is too late. Justine shares the letter with her fraternal twin, Richard, and it is decided that Justine should travel to Istanbul and find her long lost grandmother. Letter from a Stranger was different than any other Barbara Taylor Bradford book I had read. Although it still has a female main character. The descriptions of Istanbul were amazing. I could truly see the scenes as they were told in the story. I could see myself walking the streets of Istanbul during World War II. The little bit of romance in the book made it impossible for me to put down. This is definitely a great read and I would easily recommend it to any fellow book lover.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read several books by Ms. Bradford, "A Woman of Substance" being her best. This latest endeavor, however, falls short. The premise of the book is one that could have been written better with a few more twists to the story line and the characters could have been less "plastic". She missed the mark!!! The characters were too carefully portrayed, the dialog seemed forced and in general didn't flow! Of late there have been several stories written about the Holocaust that have been heart wrenching, yet "Letter From A Stranger" does not appear to be one of them. I finished the book mainly because I dislike not doing so, but disappointing to say the least.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The last 3 chapters were the best part of the book. The rest drug and everyone was too perfect. Are there actually people that act the way these guys did? A little fake but I love the WWII twist
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LynDenise More than 1 year ago
Will review once received and read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cbrCM More than 1 year ago
Every book that Barbara Taylor Bradford writes is outstanding. She takes you into the book and makes you feel that you are part of it. I've read Woman of Substance several times and every book after that. Enjoyed this book!!!