A heartbreaking and deeply compelling debut, Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase is a compulsive page-turner about thwarted love, dashed hopes, and family secrets—book-club fiction at its best.
Roberta, a lonely thirty-four-year-old bibliophile, works at The Old and New Bookshop in England. When she finds a letter inside her centenarian grandmother’s battered old suitcase that hints at a dark secret, her understanding of her family’s history is completely upturned. Running alongside Roberta’s narrative is that of her grandmother, Dorothy, as a forty-year-old childless woman desperate for motherhood during the early years of World War II. After a chance encounter with a Polish war pilot, Dorothy believes she’s finally found happiness, but must instead make an unthinkable decision whose consequences forever change the framework of her family.
The parallel stories of Roberta and Dorothy unravel over the course of eighty years as they both make their own ways through secrets, lies, sacrifices, and love. Utterly absorbing, Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase is a spellbinding tale of two worlds, one shattered by secrets and the other by the truth.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
My dear Dorothea,
In wartime, people become desperate. We step outside
ourselves. The truth is, I love you and I am sorry that only now
do I own it. You love me. I will not forget the touch of your hand
on my head and on my neck when you thought I slept. The touch
of love, no longer imagined. Nobody will touch me like that
again. This I know. This is my loss.
Forgive me, Dorothea, for I cannot forgive you. What you do,
to this child, to this child’s mother, it is wrong. It is misplaced,
like me, forced out of my homeland, perhaps never to return.
You too will never return if you persist in this scheme. You will
persist. Yet even now it can be undone. But I know you will not
undo. Your soul will not return from this that you do. Please
believe me. In welcoming the one into your arms, you must lose
another. I cannot withstand. You know why.
I do not enjoy writing these words to you. Actually, I cry.
Once this war is finished—and it must finish—
we could have made a life together. To spend my life with you has become my
only great dream and desire. After our first meeting, as I rode
away on my bicycle, I knew you were as important to me as
water. I knew you were for all time, even as there is no time. I
thought of marriage within minutes of meeting you. But it
cannot be. You are an honorable woman, but this thing that
you do is beyond honor. You do so much to be good, yet you go
back on yourself, you invite dishonor. I cannot write clearly, but
you will understand. My truly beautiful Dorothea, despite
everything, our friendship must here end. I wish you all joy of
(I found this letter in a 1910 edition of The Infant’s Progress: From the Valley
of Destruction to Everlasting Glory. I placed the book on Philip’s desk for
pricing, and it went into the antiquarian books cabinet, priced at a modest £15.)
I clean books. I dust their spines, their pages, sometimes one at a time; painstaking, throat-catching work. I find things hidden in books: dried flowers, locks of hair, tickets, labels, receipts, invoices, photographs, postcards, all manner of cards. I find letters, unpublished works by the ordinary, the anguished, the illiterate. Clumsily written or eloquent, they are love letters, everyday letters, secret letters and mundane letters talking about fruit and babies and tennis matches, from people signing themselves as Marjorie or Jean. My boss, Philip, long used to such finds, is blasé and whatever he finds, he places aside for me to look at. You can’t keep everything, he reminds me. And, of course, he is right. But I can’t bring myself to dispose of these snippets and snapshots of lives that once meant (or still do mean) so much.
Excerpted from "Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase"
Copyright © 2015 Louise Walters.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
A riveting debut with an impeccably researched past and charismatic present-day voices. Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase is like opening a literary treasure chest, full of sharp-edged gems glittering with all the beauty and heartache of humanity. You're sure to carry this story with you wherever you go. I know I will. --Sarah McCoy, author of the New York Times and international bestseller The Baker's Daughter and The Mapmaker's Children
A moving reminder that history is not just a pageant of world-shaking events, but a weave of individual lives that are often as inspiring as they are tragic. --David R. Gillham, author of the New York Timesbestseller City of Women
“A riveting debut with an impeccably researched past and charismatic present-day voices. Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase is like opening a literary treasure chest, full of sharp-edged gems glittering with all the beauty and heartache of humanity. You’re sure to carry this story with you wherever you go. I know I will.” —Sarah McCoy, author of the New York Times and international bestseller The Baker’s Daughter and The Mapmaker’s Children
“A moving reminder that history is not just a pageant of world-shaking events, but a weave of individual lives that are often as inspiring as they are tragic.” —David R. Gillham, author of the New York Times–bestseller City of Women
“Vivid and seductive, the tale begins in a blazing crash in World War II and twists through a tangle of mysterious circumstances, misunderstandings, and repressed desires. Irresistible . . .” —Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman, authors of the national bestseller Freud’s Mistress
“Walters creates a totally absorbing world, and takes you right into the heart of her story. Beautifully done, and heartbreaking, too.” —Esther Freud, author of The Sea House and Hideous Kinky
“A heartbreaking tale of loss, missed chances, and enduring love.” —Good Housekeeping (UK)
“A first novel of great charm and assurance, beautifully told and utterly gripping.” —The Times (UK)
Vivid and seductive, the tale begins in a blazing crash in World War II and twists through a tangle of mysterious circumstances, misunderstandings, and repressed desires. Irresistible... --Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman, authors of the national bestseller Freud's Mistress
Reading Group Guide
Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters
1. Motherhood is an important theme in the book. Do you identify with any of the attitudes toward mothering? Which counter your beliefs?
2. Consider Dorothy’s decision to become the mother of Nina’s baby. Do you think she does the right thing? Why or why not? Does she “adopt” or does she “steal” the baby? Why is Jan so opposed to what Dorothy does with baby John?
3. Did Anna’s desertion of Roberta have a big impact on Roberta’s life? How might have it affected Roberta’s choices and attitudes?
4. Dorothy has a difficult time with Mrs. Compton over the years. Ultimately, do you think Mrs. Compton is a good person? Why or why not?
5. Dorothy is rightfully devastated by her miscarriages. In what ways, years later, is she still affected by losing her pregnancies?
6. Roberta is described as spiky, cold, distant, and lonely. Do you agree with this characterization? Do you find her likable? Why does she choose to live such a solitary life? Will she find long-term happiness with Philip?
7. Consider Dorothy’s relationship with Nina and Aggie. How important are they to her? In what ways does Dorothy “mother them,” as Jan claims?
8. Should Roberta have been more honest with her grandmother about her son’s death and with her family about their heritage?
9. Does Dorothy love Jan as much as she thinks she does? Is she fair to him? Is she fair to Albert?
10. Does John’s adoption have a positive outcome for Dorothy? What about for John and Roberta?
11. Dorothy tells Roberta that she thought she once saw Jan many years after the war. Do you think she did see him?
12. How do the setting and time period play important roles in Dorothy’s story? Could this have been the same narrative if set in a different era?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love and secrets are always a good read. A well written story that kept my interest. I finished the book in two days.
I finished this book in a few days. I just couldn't put it down! I loved the story and the writing style, but especially the characters. I have reccomemded this book to many of my friends amd I would read it again!
Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters is a strange British novel. Roberta works at Old and New Bookshop. She loves looking in old books and finding old letters and such. She keeps them all. One day her father brings in some old books that belong to his mother (Roberta’s Babunia or grandmother). As she is going through the books she discovers a letter written to Dorothea. It is written by Jan Pietrykowski who is Roberta’s grandfather. The letter was written a year after he was dead (at least when they were told he died). The suitcase has a label inside with Mrs. D. Sinclair written on it. Who is Mrs. Sinclair? Roberta starts looking into her family history to find out the truth. The book goes between the present and past. We get to see what happened to Dorothea and what she endured (takes place during World War II). I like the basic premise of the novel, but not the final book. It is told in the first person with Roberta rambling on (and on and on) with her thoughts. You just wanted to tell her to shut up. I give Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase 2 out of 5 stars. I did not enjoy this novel (as you can tell). It was just not a pleasurable novel to read. I received a complimentary copy of Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase from First to Read and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase is the story of two incredible women. Dorthea’s story is set during WWII. Roberta’s is more current. The two stories weave around each other almost coming together but taking their own sweet time intertwining. I guessed at how these two amazing ladies would come together, but it was not until later in the book that I finally figured it out. The timeframe of Dorthea’s life is my favorite. I love the 40’s and everything WWII related. I find it interesting to see how the world went on living with such a huge war going on. It is also intriguing to me to see how those who are not “in the war” are coping and living. Of course, Dorthea’s story is my favorite. I loved how she mothered the girls, I ached for the lost babies, and I wished for a happy ending for her. Roberta’s story was more of a mystery. I felt like she had unfinished history to discover and was uncovering it piece by piece. With each letter, picture, or card she found in a book at the book store where she works more is revealed about her father, mother, and grandmother. I was intrigued. I made guesses as to what she would find out when the entire story was shared. As she went about her life I ached for her loneliness. I wanted her to find out her history, but I also felt she needed to be able to move forward. She needed to accept her life and come to terms with her family. She also needed to open herself up to find friends and make relationships. The first part of the book is a little slow. Not painfully slow, it is perfectly slow. The speed gives the reader the chance to really get to know and understand the characters. Once you hit half-way the book takes off and the clues come flying as to what will happen with the rest of the story. I definitely recommend checking out Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase.
This is a wonderful story that flips between present day and WWII. Roberta finds a confusing letter in an old battered suitcase of her grandmother. This takes her through the past of her family to unravel the mystery. I loved Roberta and this winding tale of her family’s past. As a reader, you can’t help but be drawn into her life and her grandmother’s secrets This is a heart twisting read with many facets to the story line. That being said…this story is a little confusing in places, but it is well worth the time! I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.
I really liked this book a lot. It goes from present day back and from Roberta's grandmother's life. When I first started reading it, the first letter to Dorothea, it was very confusing. However, I remembered the gist of it. It was only after I had finished the book and went back to it that the whole thing made sense. I also got confused when a chapter opened with a letter from people I'd never heard of. After a bit, I realized it was the letters and other odd sort of bookmarks that people would leave in their books. This was both a happy and sad ( a lot of sad) book that I enjoyed immensely. The real romantics out there may get a little sappy eyed and there were a few chuckles. However, overall I thought it was a very good story with strong characters and written very well. I highly recommend it. I would like to thank Putnam Books and Net Galley for the free entertainment in exchange for an honest review.