25 September 2013

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole, Book review

Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 9, 2013)
ISBN-13: 978-0345542601


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.

Here are my thoughts:

An epistolary novel spanning WW1 and WW2, Letters from Skye highlights the romantic entanglements of a Scottish published author of poetry and the American fan who corresponded with her first from the US and then from the battlefields.

1913: Elspeth has never left the island of Skye. A fisherman's daughter, she finds the inspiration for her beautiful poetry in her native surroundings and she is quite surprised to hear her little book of poems made it all the way to David in the US, a gift from a friend at Oxford.

For years Elspeth and David share everyday little events in their lives across the ocean but when their friendly correspondence leads to a love affair, Elspeth must come to term with reality: her husband Ian is reported MIA on the battlefield. The young woman is powerfully drawn to the American and she feels guilty.
And when David volunteers as an ambulance driver during the conflict, she fears she might lose him as well.

1940: England has been at war for over a year and Elspeth's daughter Margaret helps relocating evacuees whilst Paul, her best friend is serving God and Country in the R.A.F. 
Theirs is a sweet love story, and when Margaret wonders about her mother's past and her father's identity, Paul is always there for her!

When a bomb explodes nearby her mother's home, old letters addressed to someone named 'Sue' and signed 'Davey' are strewn about and inevitably the past comes to revisit.

Elspeth has never forgotten David and determined to find out his whereabouts, she disappears. Left alone, Margaret decides to search for her mother's past and after finding a single clue in a book goes to Skye where she finds a whole family she never knew.

There is enough elements in this sweeping novel to make any single soul content enough with its plot line which includes even a faerie tale or two. 
Bear in mind this is first of all a love story, whose narrative is comprised of letters exchanged at a time when adrenaline ran high... The world was after all in a major conflict!

I will not say there was not a moment or two where I doubted Letters From Skye's plot was wholly believable. I markedly groused at the clock work in their correspondence. In such time of conflict, the post office is not always reliable!
But in the end, my romantic side enjoyed the story for what it was: a celebration of love!

I give it 4 stars!

About the Author:

Jessica Brockmole says: "I have been enamored with historical fiction since I was old enough to sit still for bedtime readings of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Now, I write stories of my own (and am much better at sitting still)."

More on the author can be found on her website (HERE). 

Note to Readers: I was not asked to review this novel so please bear in mind, this review reflects ONLY my opinion!


  1. Isn't the cover of this book beautiful! Good review my friend!

  2. Thanks Diane and I agree, the cover just reaches out!

  3. I really enjoyed this one, too! I agree that they seemed to get their letters on a pretty regular basis despite the war, but that didn't bother me much. It was a charming book, and I love novels written in letters. Have you read I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan? That's probably the best epistolary novel I've read so far, and it's set during WWII.

    1. I also enjoy a good epistolary novel now and then and no, I have not read Suzanne Hayes' novel (adding it to my list, thanks!)

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Mystica! Check out also Anna's comment above for another possible good book!
      All the best,

  5. I have never been to Skye, but have become quite fascinated by it since I saw some stunning pins on Pinterest. So this novel is definitely one for me.

    1. I enjoyed the novel Tracey despite some (spot on) critics. What do I know?! I just enjoy a good book (and I have been very selective lately!)
      Here is hoping we both get a chance to visit Skye or even Mann (the Isle of Man)!

    2. I have been to the Isle of Man, but not for many years.
      I have just finished reading Letters From Skye, and thoroughly enjoyed it. At first I wasn't sure if I liked the style, I didn't think I wanted to read an entire novel made up of letters, but it soon became used to the style, and got lost in the story.
      I too gave it 4 stars.

  6. Letters from Skye just jumped off the shelf at me as my aunt may always said it was her favorite place on earth now sitting here tea in hand I feel I've found a secret stash of old letters. Thank-you for taking me away on this romantic journey


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