Letters from Skye

Letters from Skye

4.3 32
by Jessica Brockmole
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Advance praise for Letters from Skye
 
“A poignant tale of a stubborn love that bridges the lives and wars of two generations, Letters From Skye gives the reader a story to inhale as well as read, unfolding amid the gripping panorama of a changing world—an absorbing and rewarding saga of loss and discovery.”—Kate Alcott, New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker
 
“Jessica Brockmole’s Letters from Skye is a fascinating, lyrical tale of love and loss. Gracefully weaving the tales of lovers and brothers and sisters spanning two wars, Brockmole expertly explores the toll of both honesty and deception upon hearts battered by war and society’s expectations.”—Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife
 
“Jessica Brockmole is a gifted storyteller who weaves beauty and emotion into her pages. Letters from Skye will tug at your heart and make you long for the salty air of the Isle of Skye.”—Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Camellia and Blackberry Winter
 
Letters from Skye is a captivating love story that celebrates the power of hope to triumph over time and circumstance.”—Vanessa Diffenbaugh, New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Technically, Elspeth Dunn was a published poet, but until that one fan letter arrived from America, this twenty-four-year-old felt like just another lonely Scottish island girl. The first note began an increasingly romantic correspondence that reaches a cliff when Elspeth's stateside admirer volunteers to be an ambulance driver in World War I. The epistolary story resumes in mid-1940 with the discovery of a long-concealed batch of letters and a daughter's search for her missing mother. Jessica Brockmole's debut novel follows a relationship caught in the throes of history.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780345542618
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/09/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
73,119
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Elspeth

Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A.

March 5, 1912

Dear Madam,

I hope you won’t think me forward, but I wanted to write to express my admiration for your book, From an Eagle’s Aerie. I’ll admit, I’m not usually a guy for poetry. More often, I can be found with a dog-eared copy of Huck Finn or something else involving mortal peril and escape. But something in your poems touched me more than anything has in years.

I’ve been in the hospital, and your little book cheered me better than the nurses. Especially the nurse with the mustache like my uncle Phil’s. She’s also touched me more than anything has in years, though in a much less exciting way. Generally I’m pestering the doctors to let me up and about so I can go back to my plotting. Just last week I painted the dean’s horse blue, and I had hoped to bestow the same on his terrier. But with your book in hand, I’m content to stay as long as they keep bringing the orange Jell-O.

Most of your poems are about tramping down life’s fears and climbing that next peak. As you can probably guess, there are few things that shake my nerves (apart from my hirsute nurse and her persistent thermometer). But writing a letter, uninvited, to a published author such as yourself—this feels by far my most daring act.

I am sending this letter to your publisher in London and will cross my fingers that it finds its way to you. And if I can ever repay you for your inspiring poetry—by painting a horse, for example—you only have to say the word.

With much admiration,

David Graham

Isle of Skye

25 March, 1912

Dear Mr. Graham,

You should have seen the stir in our tiny post office, everyone gathered to watch me read my first letter from a “fan,” as you Americans would say. I think the poor souls thought no one outside our island had ever laid eyes on my poetry. I don’t know which was more thrilling to them—that someone had indeed read one of my books or that the someone was an American. You’re all outlaws and cowboys, aren’t you?

I myself admit to some surprise that my humble little works have fled as far as America. From an Eagle’s Aerie is one of my more recent books, and I wouldn’t have thought it had time to wing across the ocean yet. However you’ve acquired it, I’m just glad to know I’m not the only one who’s read the blasted thing.

In gratitude,

Elspeth Dunn

Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A.

April 10, 1912

Dear Miss Dunn,

I don’t know which made me giddier—to hear that From an Eagle’s Aerie was among your “most recent books” or to get a response at all from such an esteemed poet. Surely you’re too busy counting meter or compiling a list of scintillating synonyms (brilliant, sparkling, dazzling synonyms). Me, I spend my days robbing banks with the James Gang and the other outlaws and cowboys.

I was sent your book by a friend of mine who is up at Oxford. To my shock and dismay, I have not seen your works in print here in the United States. Even a thorough search of my university library turned up nothing. Now that I know you have others lurking on the bookstore shelves, I will have to appeal to my pal to send more.

I was astonished to read that mine was your first “fan” letter. I was sure it would be just one in a stack, which is why I went to such pains to make it fascinating and witty. Perhaps other readers haven’t been as bold (or perhaps as impulsive?) as I.

Regards,

David Graham

P.S. Wherever is the Isle of Skye?

Isle of Skye

1 May, 1912

Mr. Graham,

You don’t know where my lovely isle is? Ridiculous! That would be like me saying I’ve never heard of Urbana, Illinois.

My isle is off the northwest coast of Scotland. A wild, pagan, green place of such beauty that I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Enclosed is a picture of Peinchorran, where I live, with my cottage nestled between the hills around the loch. I’ll have you know that, in order to draw this for you, I had to hike around the loch, trudge up the sheep path on the opposite hill, and find a patch of grass not covered by heather or sheep excreta. I’ll expect you to do likewise when you send me a picture of Urbana, Illinois.

Do you lecture in Urbana? Study? I’m afraid I don’t know what it is that Americans do at university.

Elspeth Dunn

P.S. By the way, it’s “Mrs. Dunn.”

Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A.

June 17, 1912

Dear Mrs. Dunn (please excuse my presumption!),

You draw as well as write such magnificent poetry? The picture you sent is sublime. Is there nothing you can’t do?

As I can’t draw worth a dime, I’m sending a few picture postcards instead. One is the auditorium at the university; the second is the tower on the library building. Not bad, huh? Illinois is probably as different from the Isle of Skye as a place could be. Not a mountain in sight. Once I leave campus, just corn as far as the eye can see.

I suppose I do what any collegiate American does: study, eat too much pie, torment the dean and his horse. I’m finishing up my studies in natural sciences. My father hopes I’ll enter medical school and join him in his practice one day. I’m not as certain about my future as he seems to be. For now, I’m just trying to make it through my last year of college with my sanity intact!

David Graham

Isle of Skye

11 July, 1912

Mr. Graham,

“Is there nothing you can’t do?” you ask. Well, I can’t dance. Or tan leather. Or make barrels or shoot a harpoon. And I’m not particularly good at cooking. Can you believe I burned soup the other day? But I can sing fairly well, shoot a straight shot from a rifle, play the cornet (can’t we all?), and I’m something of an amateur geologist. And, although I couldn’t cook a decent roast lamb if my life depended on it, I make a marvellous Christmas pudding.

Forgive my frankness, but why devote all of your time (and sanity) towards an area of study that doesn’t grip your very soul? If I had had a chance to go to university, I wouldn’t have spent even a moment on a subject that didn’t interest me.

I should love to think I would’ve spent my university days reading poetry, as there’s no better way to pass the time, but after so many years masquerading as a “real poet,” there likely isn’t much a professor could teach me now.

No, as unladylike as it sounds, I would have studied geology. My older brother Finlay is always out on the water and brings me rocks smooth from the ocean. I can’t help but wonder where they came from and how they washed up on the Western Isles.

There, now you know my secret wishes! I shall have to take your firstborn child in exchange. Or I suppose I could settle for a secret of your own. If you weren’t studying natural science, what would you be studying? What do you wish you could be doing with your life above all?

Elspeth

What People are saying about this

Advance praise for Letters from Skye
 
“Letters from Skye is a captivating love story that celebrates the power of hope to triumph over time and circumstance.”
—Vanessa Diffenbaugh, New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers
 
“A poignant tale of a stubborn love that bridges the lives and wars of two generations, Letters From Skye gives the reader a story to inhale as well as read, unfolding amidst the gripping panorama of a changing world — an absorbing and rewarding saga of loss and discovery.”
—Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker
 
“Jessica Brockmole’s Letters from Skye is a fascinating, lyrical tale of love and loss.  Gracefully weaving the tales of lovers and brothers and sisters spanning two wars, Brockmole expertly explores the toll of both honesty and deception upon hearts battered by war and society’s expectations.”
—Melanie Benjamin, author of The Aviator’s Wife

Meet the Author

Jessica Brockmole spent several years living in Scotland, where she knew too well the challenges in maintaining relationships from a distance. She plotted her first novel on a long drive from the Isle of Skye to Edinburgh. She now lives in Indiana with her husband and two children.

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Letters from Skye: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 32 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Read it in 2 days. I enjoyed the letter format. It bounced back and forth between the letters written during the first world war between lovers and the letters written during the second world war between daughter and several people as she looked for her missing mom and tried to figure out what secret the past held. At the same time I was angry with Elspeth for cheating and admired her courage to go after what she wanted. You can't just hurt other people like that and get a charmed life or did she get a charmed life? Just when you thought you had the end figured out a surprise turns up! Now just who's daughter is Margaret anyway? The descriptions of Skye made me feel like I was there and the descriptions of the war raining down on them were very real too. It's a book that makes you feel wistful afterwards and leaves you feeling like you know these people, after all you read their intimate letters. If you love Scotland, mystery and romance this book is for you! Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.
Copygirl More than 1 year ago
I opened up the copy of Letters from Skye I won this morning and was captivated by it. I couldn't put it down until I finished it. The letter format sucked me in. "Just one more," I said to myself and hours later I was still reading. I had to know what happened to Elspeth and whether she and David ever met and so forth until I had finished the book. I would recommend Letters to Skye to anyone who values relationships that begin with the sharing of mutual interests and respect and slowly build. Elspeth's daughter Margaret adds another layer to the anticipation of what happened in Elspeth's and David's lives, and watching her solve the mystery of Elspeth's closed-off life is beautiful. Even though the story takes place during two wars, there is no real violence to make the book hard to read. Because you get to read the letters from both sides their personalities develop; you learn their dreams and want them to find happiness. I found the ending satisfying and I think the story will stay with me for awhile.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Poignant. Rich. Subtle. So many more words I could use to describe this book. Jessica does a brilliant job of capturing 25 years of love between the pages of letters passed back and forth across the water. The transformation that Elspeth Dunn, the poetess in this tale, undergoes, is lovely to read. She's like a bird in a cage on her Isle of Skye, but once released, she's not quite sure how far she can fly. Davey, an adventurer with a heart for only one woman, is the key to her cage, but Ian, the childhood friend-turned-husband, is the earth beneath her. Family, love, sacrifice, betrayal, resentment, forgiveness, hope, hopelessness - these are all topics Jessica covers with elegance and grace in the timeless tale of the love triangle. Your heart will break for all three parties (and more), a situation compounded by the atrocities and effects of war. I read this in one sitting - thank goodness for a holiday weekend! Just a heads up - this book is about a war-time adulterous affair, so if the topic is not one you want to read about, this book isn't one for you. This book was provided to me by the publishing company for the purpose of this review.
AlanAbrams More than 1 year ago
Letters from Skye is a delightfully good book that spans two world wars. The romance is perfectly told. The story is told through letters, which works perfectly.
irishclaireKG More than 1 year ago
Too 'Twee.' I was excited about this book as Scotland is one of my favorite places yet the entire novel ending up falling flat. For the vast, wild beauty that is Skye, (and the fact the author is from there) there is not much in the way of atmosphere or description that truly captures that. I kept thinking that Skye ended up having little to do with the story--it sort of could have happened anywhere. In 'Downton Abbey's' wake this is another in a seeming flood of WWI and between wars stories--and this one just blends in with the rest. What starts out with an intriguing relationship between an older, married woman and a younger, idealistic student ends up totally predictable with plot points that have been repeated in an endless number of these books. Nothing of any originality happens here although the letter format of the story is engaging. Other reviewers have compared this to the 'Guernsey Literary' novel but I do not see it at all. 'Guernsey' is a WWII novel with wonderfully engaging characters; it is a thousand times better than this. 'Skye' is not a bad book; it works as an easy, afternoon read. But it is not one that will likely stay with you and a savvy reader will see the ending/resolutions coming for miles. In terms of WWI or between the wars novels--if you had read one of them, you have read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the way the story is written in letters. This would be a good book club discussion novel about - conflict in emotions and perceptions. Another great historical novel is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. Right now it is only 99 cents on the Nook. Both books are excellent and deserve A+++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written. Not predictable. Skillful twists and turns right to the end.
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole I did not expect this to be actual letters what a great premise to a book. I feel like I am writing my best friend... and getting his responses immediately... love the idea of two romances shown in the two great wars... I am thrown by the idea and the romance of the letters. My parents wrote letters for a year before they met in Europe to get married, so letter writing has a sensitive spot for me. The purity of the written words, the concern of the mother and the rebellion of the daughter. The idea of their letters passing back and forth explaining their lives, their fears, their dreams and their ideals.
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
I liked Letters From Skye because I enjoyed the relationship between Elsbeth and David. I liked that David called her Sue.I  loved the letter format of Letters from Skye. The ending was satisfying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a yawn!!! Elspeth Dunn's ridiculous fright of traveling by ferry made me want to gnash my teeth. I couldn't relate to her at any level. All this secrecy...really, who cares. Why her daughter, Margaret, can find the man who is her father she didn't know she had and Elspeth couldn't after several decades is beyond me!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Leaps on and hum.ps as his di.ck went in and out
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A purple unicorn violently rips clover's head off.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Normally not the type of book I read but this was so good i read it in less than a day. The heart wants what the heart wants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Honestly one of the best thought-out, well-written books I have read in a long time. The way the two stories/time periods are interwoven makes for an interesting read. I also enjoyed the short chapters, which helped keep the read quick and easy to follow. I don't want to give anything away, but the story is so poetic and beautiful, I could barely put the book down. I look forward to more books by Jessica Brockmole. Such a good book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
onlybestreviewedRZ More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written story that takes place during two world wars and brings to life characters with profound emotion. I would highly recommend it! I truly enjoyed reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Jessica has the "voice" of each character. The letters felt so real and felt like you were actually there. There was so much emotion and could feel the intamacy between each penpal. The end gave me chills. I highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AnnieMNH More than 1 year ago
This was such a fun read for me. I'm a softy for epistolary novels. The author's descriptions of the Isle of Skye were wonderful!
JacksonvilleReader More than 1 year ago
Great first book from Jessica Brockmole. I enjoyed the format of the story unfolding in letters and bringing together two different generations.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read in a long time. From the first letter I was hooked.
Scarls17 More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book and highly recommend it! Told entirely in letters, this is a magnificent story of love.
Bookbadger More than 1 year ago
This is an epistolary novel, (meaning the story is told through letters) and it was reminiscent of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that was so popular a year or two ago. I found the characters delightful and well rounded, and I found the prose to be enticing and the plot swift. I believe that those who enjoy novels about WW2 that have heart and soul and romance to them. The ending was a real tear-jerker, so please have tissues on hand! I would certainly recommend this to book groups and yes, I will read other works by this author