Letters From Skye is one of those novels that shocked me beyond belief. I thought the cover looked boring. It is an epistolary novel, which I often find to be gimmicky. And it is a love story, nay I say romance? All these things together for me do not add up to a promising book. The reason I picked it up was because it is set in Scotland and the period was somewhat interesting to me – the two world wars.
But I can honestly say that once I started reading it I found it difficult to put down. The novel starts as a correspondence between a poet living on the Isle of Skye, off the coast of Scotland and a brash young American fan. By the second or third letter between them I was hooked. In spite of the distance between them, they seemed to connect in a surprising way. I was cheering them on and wanted them to meet, to fall in love, to take things to the next level.
The other thread of the novel involves letters between the Skye poetess’s daughter and her best friend turned fiance during the second world war. In these letters Margaret seeks to learn more about her mother’s life before she was born. Of course, there is a secret there that is revealed not too long after her mother goes missing.
A novel such as this – letters between lovers – could easily slip into the sentimental.That is where Jessica Brockmole‘s great strength lays; she manages to communicate passion, love and longing through well developed characters rather than falling into the predictable tropes of romance. The reason I wanted to keep reading the novel was not because of the romance, but because the characters were so engaging. In addition to (forbidden) love, they had struggles of their own and fears to overcome.
Who would like this book? If you are travelling to Scotland, I highly recommend this book. It gives the contrasting flavors of rural island life as well as the comparatively cosmopolitan life of Edinburgh. Not to be out done, Glasgow also makes a brief appearance. This is also a great novel for those who enjoy the epistolary form. The blogosphere has recently been abuzz over Frances and Bernard, another novel of letters, but I feel that of the two Letters From Skye was more readable.