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.
In spring 1912, it was Elspeth Dunn's lyrical poetry about her home on the Isle of Skye that caught the eye of American David Graham and started a correspondence that would change both their lives. Though the relationship begins innocently as a single fan letter to a newly found favorite author, the pair slowly discover a true confidant and unconditional support in each other. But Elspeth is married. What can come of this? Already being compared to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this novel lacks the magical charm of its powerful predecessor. The isolation of island living and a world at war are used to accommodate some of the characters' heightened emotions, but the story begins to feel heavy-handed, and there are few surprises, good or bad. Told as an epistolary novel primarily from the perspective of the original couple, the narrative also includes a second story line set 20 years later that further reflects on the relationship. However, David and Elspeth never truly come to life. VERDICT Suggest to readers looking for a Nicholas Sparks-style novel but with a much happier ending. [See Prepub Alert, 1/25/13.]—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH
Brockmole uses letters to tell a remarkable story of two women, their loves, their secrets, and two world wars, cutting to the important matters that letter writers struggle to put into just the right words. In 1912, young poet Mrs. Elspeth Dunn, who has never left Scotland’s Isle of Skye because of her fear of boats, receives her first fan letter from David Graham, a college student in Urbana, Ill. They begin a long correspondence. After Elspeth’s husband goes off to war, she overcomes her fear and crosses to London to meet briefly with David, who is on his way to France to serve in the American Ambulance Field Service. Interspersed with Elspeth and David’s letters are 1940 missives from Margaret, Elspeth’s daughter, to her uncle and her fiancé as she tries to find out about her father, since Elspeth will not talk about her past. The beauty of Scotland, the tragedy of war, the longings of the heart, and the struggles of a family torn apart by disloyalty are brilliantly drawn, leaving just enough blanks to be filled by the reader’s imagination. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (July)
“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 remarkable story of two women, their loves, their secrets, and two world wars [in which] the beauty of Scotland, the tragedy of war, the longings of the heart, and the struggles of a family torn apart by disloyalty are brilliantly drawn.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Tantalizing . . . sure to please readers who enjoyed other epistolary novels like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”—Stratford Gazette
“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
“A sweeping and sweet (but not saccharine) love story.”—USA Today
“[A] dazzling little jewel.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“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
In 1912, a chance letter from a young student to a reclusive poet sparks a trans-Atlantic romance spanning two wars. A fear of water has kept Elspeth Dunn on the Isle of Skye for all of her 24 years. Yet her poetry has traveled far, even to the bedside of David Graham, an American college student whose spirited shenanigans have landed him in the hospital with a broken leg. He writes her a fan letter, she responds, and an epistolary affair ensues. Yet more than water keeps the couple apart. David is struggling to gain independence from his domineering father. His grades are woeful and his career prospects uncertain. Worse, Elspeth happens to be already married. Her husband, Iain, has abandoned her to fight in the Great War. When David spontaneously decides to enlist as an ambulance driver, Elspeth is both terrified for him and thrilled at the prospect of meeting him face to face. Complicating matters is the disappearance of Iain, who is soon presumed dead. Jumping ahead to 1940, Elspeth's daughter, Margaret, escorts evacuated children to safe homes in the Scottish Highlands. She, too, has a wartime pen pal: Paul, a childhood friend–turned–Royal Air Force pilot. Elspeth cryptically warns Margaret about wartime romances, but before she can explain, she disappears during an air raid. Left with only an old love letter, Margaret begins searching for her mother, piecing together clues to a family secret. The correspondence between Elspeth and David, as well as between Margaret and Paul, carefully traces the intertwining of lives. By turns lyrical and flirtatious, Brockmole's debut charms with its wistful evocation of a time when handwritten, eagerly awaited letters could bespell besotted lovers.