Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Review by Amanda Clark, BCPL Adult Programming Supervisor
I have always had a fascination for reading other people’s letters. Letters tend to be deeply personal, and I think people tend to be much more expressive and poetic in letters. I suppose I enjoy them because I am inquisitive. I am curious. Let’s call it what it is, I am just plain nosy. I love that first-hand glimpse into the lives and thoughts of others. So when I happened upon Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole and I realized the story unfolded through letters, I knew I had to read it.
March 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.” Scottish poet Elspeth Dunn receives her first fan letter from American college student David Graham. Elspeth, excited to get a fan letter, also feels lonely in her marriage and isolated on the Isle of Skye. She responds to David’s letter. The two share a correspondence that grows from friendship to a deep love. When David signs on to be an ambulance driver on the Western front in World War I, and her own husband is missing in action, all Elspeth can do is wait on Skye to determine what her future will hold.
June 1940: Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, is involved in her own wartime romance. Margaret does not understand Elspeth’s admonition of seeking love in a time of war but Elspeth gives no explanation other than, “You can’t believe in anything said in wartime. Emotions are as fleeting as a quiet night.” When a bomb destroys part of Elspeth’s house and letters that were hidden in a wall resurface, Elspeth disappears. Margaret is only able to read one of the many letters before her mother is gone, and she must use that one letter to unravel secrets long-hidden.
I loved the intertwining of the two stories; Elspeth and David’s romance during World War I and Margaret and Paul’s during World War II. Because the story is told entirely through letters, Brockmole relied on the correspondence of a few major players to round out the tale, which she did brilliantly. The letters were descriptive and left few gaps in the storyline. The only part of the story that I wanted more of was the ending; I would have been happier with an epilogue.
The chapters alternate between the two time periods. While this may sound confusing, it helped moved the story along. I have to admit; I was not as interested in Margaret and Paul’s story as I was Elspeth and David’s. For me, Margaret was in the story simply as a means to solve the mystery surrounding Elspeth and David.
I could not put this book down. Brockmole used transitions to create urgency and suspense that kept me turning the pages well into the night, saying to myself, “just one more letter!” I simply had to know what was going to happen next. I highly recommend this debut novel if you are a little nosy, like me, and enjoy a good love story.
You can find Letters from Skye on the shelves of Boyd County Public Library. You can also request a hold for it at www.thebookplace.org or via the BCPL Mobile app.