Finalist for the 2018 Minnesota Book Award
A graphic designer’s search for inspiration leads to a cache of letters and the mystery of one man’s fate during World War II.
Seeking inspiration for a new font design in an antique store in small-town Stillwater, Minnesota, graphic designer Carolyn Porter stumbled across a bundle of letters and was immediately drawn to their beautifully expressive pen-and-ink handwriting. She could not read the lettersthey were in Frenchbut she noticed all of them had been signed by a man named Marcel and mailed from Berlin to his family in France during the middle of World War II.
As Carolyn grappled with designing the font, she decided to have one of Marcel’s letters translated. Reading it opened a portal to a different time, and what began as mere curiosity quickly became an obsession with finding out why the letter writer, Marcel Heuzé, had been in Berlin, how his letters came to be on sale in a store halfway around the world, and, most importantly, whether he ever returned to his beloved wife and daughters after the war.
Marcel’s Letters is the incredible story of Carolyn’s increasingly desperate search to uncover the mystery of one man’s fate during WWII, seeking answers across Germany, France, and the United States. Simultaneously, she continues to work on what would become the acclaimed P22 Marcel font, immortalizing the man and his letters that waited almost seventy years to be reunited with his family.
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About the Author
What People are Saying About This
"Carolyn Porter takes us on her offbeat quest to solve a transatlantic history mystery and unearths an intriguing pocket of our past along the way." Megan Smolenyak, author of Who Do You Think You Are? The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History
"We pick a font hoping it says something about us: that we are creative, intellectual, or have business know-how. But what happens when a font picks a graphic designer and turns her world upside down and inside out? In Marcel's Letters, Carolyn rescues one man's legacy, and ultimately gifts us with her own." Elizabeth Rynecki, author of Chasing Portraits
In Marcel's Letters Carolyn Porter has plucked a powerful story from the recesses of history. After purchasing a trove of letters because of their elegant script, Porter embarked on a quest to solve the mystery of their authorship and in so doing embarks on a historical awakening of her own." Cathryn J. Prince, author of American Daredevil: The Extraordinary Life of Richard Halliburton, the World’s First Celebrity Travel Writer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an interesting nonfiction book of how some vintage letters, written in French in beautiful handwriting, became a lovely letter font and led the author of the book on a detective hunt to find out about the writer of the letters and his fate. Even if you think you know a lot about World War II, you probably don't know about the history of the forced work camps (not the concentration camps, this was something else altogether). The history revealed in the letters as they are translated, one by one, and the attempts to follow threads to find out about Marcel are fascinating, and the process involved in developing a usable font will make you appreciate the difficulties in developing those different letter styles we take for granted on our computers. The third part of the story, the author's journey, is outlined in a series of emotional highs and lows. This aspect of the story is possibly the weakest part, seeming overly dramatic. and has the feel of the author being advised to play up the "human" part of the story. The exaggerated distress she feels over small setbacks seems over the top, or even slightly unhinged. I kept expecting that her husband (who has the best dryly delivered lines in the book) might give up on the marriage and leave her. But luckily, all ends well, and the history and the font story override the personal drama to make this well worth the read.