Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Adult Fic Pick! Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole Review

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Published by Ballantine Books
Publish Date: July 9, 2013
304 Pages
Source: NetGalley
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N


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.



Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole 

My Thoughts:  Sometimes I get so caught up in a book that I lose track of time and myself and the world around me. Sometimes I'm able to find parts of present day life in a book that is set so far in the past that it seems impossible. Sometimes I can go through through the ringer with the characters in a book and be absolutely, utterly exhausted only to come out on the other side absolutely better for it. This is one of those books. Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole wrecked in me in the best way possible, and I mean that in the best way possible. From the second I closed it, I have barely stopped thinking about it and I've wanted needed to read it again. 


I need to read this book again. 

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It all started with a letter. 

Elspeth Dunn could barely believe she had gotten a piece of actual fan mail, and when she read it she couldn't wait to reply. FAN MAIL? Somehow her little book of published poetry had made its way to a college student in the United States, David Graham. When she wrote back, she didn't really expect to receive another letter from David, so she replied again. And here is the beginning of the correspondence that lasted the length of several years. 

SEVERAL YEARS, you guys. Let that soak in a minute. See, this is back in 1912 when it is for-real letter writing, actual correspondence. So these people would walk to the post office, send their letter, and have to wait weeks for a reply - if one comes at all. Throughout the course of this 'pen-pal relationship' David exchanges these fun letters with small-town poet Elspeth, and they grow from exchanging pleasantries to hanging on every word that each letter says. They ask each other small questions that have big meanings and give guarded replies also maybe filled with meaning. They become friends, sharing things with one another that other people do not know. The funny thing about all of this is for the longest time, they don't actually meet. And they don't actually hear the voice of the other one. David has no idea what Elspeth looks like, but he does send Elspeth a picture of himself. When David decides that join the war effort in WWI, among a flurry of things happening, two things stand out: 1) Elspeth is frightened to pieces for his safety, as I would imagine. She's grown quite close to him over the past few years. 2) To join his particular assignment, he'll travel and be making a stop not too far from Skye. He asks Elspeth if she would come to meet him - he'd love to lay eyes on his friend, his pen pal. 

Well, Elspeth has a raging, deathly fear of leaving the island, so she misses him the first time he comes ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE OCEAN, so close to her. They don't get to meet and are devastated but alas! the letters continue. David starts his job in the war, driving ambulances to the front lines and back, which is pretty exciting and also scary and dangerous. Elspeth never stops worrying for a second about him - the letters she sends take even longer to reach him, and likewise his responses take almost forever to reach her. Still, throughout the war, they maintain their letter-writing, the keep their chins up, they remain friends and hopeful that David will remain safe and that one day they can meet. 

There is also the growing "elephant in the room" - feelings that have developed between the two. Before long, one of the two becomes the braver one and is the first to admit what they are both actually feeling. In writing. In letters. Because this is how they communicate, you see. 


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I can't even believe this book, how it gripped my heart and still does. Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole makes me hug my Kindle tightly on days when I am not even reading the book. There is so much packed into this book and it is done so smartly, you guys. And honestly, I think you'll either fall in love with it, or you won't. 

Letters From Skye is epistolary, so we get the entire story in letters. There are the letters between Elspeth and David, which are like a peak into their relationship and oh-so-wonderful. This is a relationship that begins as purely a fan reaching out to someone he sees as the equivalent of a rockstar, and then the rockstar-type person writing back - only she isn't quite well-versed in the ways of writing fan mail and perhaps reveals a little too much about herself. This basically invites David to continue writing - which is what he does. Back and forth, these two write, over and over. It is so charming and before I knew it, I was caught up in their fun friendship, I was watching it grow, I was reeling at how Elspeth couldn't leave the island and how that must've destroyed David's hopeful heart, I was scared for him at the front line, and I was feeling tons of other things too. See, Elspeth has some things going on in her life already when she receives this letter - she has this whole life on the island of Skye. And David is a college student. The world is his for the taking, really, and he's able to do anything he wants to do. And he wants to write to Elspeth. They are in two different places in life when they begin this thing they're doing. 

There is a little bit of inner turmoil on Elspeth's part about whether or not she should become so involved with David via his letters - but I think it is very short-lived because she genuinely grows to enjoy them, and then him. And it is fairly obvious from the beginning that this guy is starstruck with her. He asks her these fun questions and then the questions become more serious, and as a reader I could see this thing blossoming into something that I wasn't sure if the two of them were aware of yet or not. 

Oh! But then they were. They became aware of their own feelings and tip-toed around them, being very careful with their words and phrases and OH HOW MY HEART just danced and also did flip-flops. Because of things - war, distance, things. It was like from this point on, I held my breath and my heart pounded. 

Intermingled with the letters of Elspeth and David were letters between Elspeth and her daughter Margaret from the time period of WWII along with letters between Margaret and her fiance. See, WWII is now being fought and comes a bit too close to home when a nearby bomb blast shakes the walls of Elspeth's home. When this happens, ALL of the letters between Elspeth and David fall out of their hidden place - Margaret and Elspeth need to run to the bomb shelter and Elspeth sends her daughter on, but she takes the time to gather her precious letters, but she never makes it to the shelter. Where did she go? 

ALSO things happened to tear Elspeth's family apart so many years ago. I mean, tore them apart to the point that some of them won't even speak anymore. 

OH MY GOODNESS. OH MY GOODNESS. Right now, writing this, I keep making fists and wanting to keyboard smash and cry and discuss this with somebody. I KNOW WHERE SHE WENT. But you all have to read it to find out. It completely freaks her daughter Margaret out because she doesn't tell anyone where she goes, and it's during a pretty dangerous time outside in the aftermath of the bomb scare, and there are some other things. 

Yes, I think I need to re-read this book again pretty much in the next few days or I'll combust. 

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmore is a beautifully written debut about finding friendship in an unexpected place and how it turns into so much more than the two expected. I fell hard and fast for these two characters that had so much physical distance between them but were able to make something out of a relationship on paper. I do believe so wholeheartedly in this story and that it is possible - the fact that the story both wrecked my heart and sits in it is pure evidence of this. The way Brockmole used the setting of Skye as the backdrop for this tale only made it better - and the other settings, too, which I won't spoil - and oh my goodness, I just fell so hard for this story because I believe in love like this. 

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmore is basically the perfect book for me and it could have actually been penned with me in mind. I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, fans of great settings, readers that enjoy epistolary novels, and readers that enjoy an epic love story. This book took my breath away and is still doing that right this second. I said I'd probably read this one again soon but I'll probably just start it again today. 

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Letters From Skye will appeal to fans of:

Historical Fiction
Fantastic Setting: Isle of Skye, Scotland
Guy-Girl Friendship turned relationsip
(that begins with letters!) 
Epistolary Structure 
Alternating Time Periods 

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
is currently available for purchase.

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This is another favorite of mine for the year. 

That is all. 



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13 comments:

  1. So all of your "this will appeal to fans of" things describe me. I've wanted to read this since I first saw the cover and found that it was EPISTOLARY. LOVE epistolary style. Like seriously love. Anyway, I also love books set during war (is that weird?) and helloooo, the UK. Um, yes please. I need this in my life ASAP. That's about all I have to say; pretty much I need to buy this like yesterday. Excellent review, Asheley! Thanks for convincing me that I need to get my hands on this SOON! :)

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    1. I've always been so very wary of epistolary style, always putting books DOWN that were written in that style, but this story sounded so good that I had to give it a shot and OH MY GOODNESS it paid off in such a huge way.

      There is so much to this book and I loved it so much. There are some things that I didn't want to give away, but it just gripped me pretty early on and didn't let go. Historical fiction is new to me and I'm finding that I like it a ton - kind of like when I started out with contemporary - I'm working into this type of book and having a ball with it so far. This book is one of my favorites for the year.

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  2. This book sounds freaking amazing! I'm usually wary when it's in epistolary format, but the way you talk about it has me convinced that it's still poignant and beautiful. I definitely want to read this one, if only to share in the emotional experience that it was for you!

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    1. Truthfully, I've never read an epistolary formatted book that I've really enjoyed, but this one I absolutely loved. I fell so hard for this story and for these characters. It spans both World Wars, so there is *stuff* that goes on and just WOW. My heart is so full.

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  3. Okay. I feel like I'm already invested in this story after reading your review. I WANT TO KNOW WHERE SHE WENT!!! Wow. I'm a little nervous about alternating time periods, but I love epistolary books and historical fiction, also EPIC love stories. Though I am a little bit nervous that this one won't end well. I know that Asheley doesn't mind that. But an ending can make or break a book for Lauren depending on how it is handled, especially compared to the emotion in the whole thing. BUT I WANT to read this one. I bet my library has a copy.

    I know they're totally different, especially in tone. But the island setting during the war and letter writing style reminds me a bit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, which I adored.

    Just to clarify, this entire book is told in letters? Or are there parts that are in regular prose?

    Thanks for putting this book on my radar!

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    1. When I was reading the book, I had an idea for a little about where I thought she would be going but I was wrong! When I read where she ended up going, I was just -- I don't know. I think it added so much depth to the story. Plus the fact that it scared her daughter, who is actively trying to find her. Such a great part of the story BUT my favorite part is by far the pen-pal relationship that begins everything and how it develops and changes. The letters are actually quite short for the most part but you can tell when you are reading them that the two are becoming invested in each other and that they are becoming friends.

      There is something about being friends with someone for a while before meeting them face to face - I think lots of us bloggers/readers know this. We learn about each other and become friends so it feels like we've know each other forever when we finally do meet. So in reading their letters, which span years, I'm watching this growing relationship and HOPING for the best, crossing my fingers that she will get the courage to leave the island at some point and meet him and that he stays safe while he is fighting WWI. But then, why in the world are all of the letters hiding out in the wall?

      It's just gripping and it grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go. It still hasn't let go. I'm literally going to have to read it again. It's like a food craving, which sounds crazy.

      Also, I didn't mention this, but you love those quiet stories, and I think that there is so much quiet to this one, but at times it is interestingly quiet against the backdrop of the war, which is loud. It's like he's reading her quiet letter while he's serving in WWI, which seems loud. So interesting and quite a contrast. And then his letters sometimes seem like they loud and full of laughter and smiles against the quiet backdrop of her sleepy, small town on Skye.

      I hope your library gets a copy so you can read it and I hope you like it when you do. We'll have to discuss because there is so much to talk about.

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  4. This book looks so amazing-I adore epistolary novels especially in a historical context so I really want to give this one a read. I recently adored "I'll Be Seeing You" by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan and this looks like it might be in a similar vein. Just requested a copy from my library!

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    1. I loved it so much. I hope you like it too. It's completely epistolary but there is so much story packed into the letters.

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  5. This book is definitely going on my TBR!

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    1. Yay! That makes me really happy! I hope you enjoy it!

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  6. I'm so excited to read this book! I've heard a lot of good things about it. I actually got to meet Jessica at the Historical Novel Society conference back in June. She's really wonderful!

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  7. Dang girl! What an awesome review for this book! Like you, I was nervous about the epistolary format but I agree that it just worked so well. This was such a quiet, moving read. As a fan of historical fiction, I had a feeling that I was going to enjoy this one. But I've even happier that you loved it! And that you're slowly becoming more and more interested in historical fiction - SUCCESS!

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  8. This is one of the books that I really love reading. The story keeps my heart excited all the time. Unlike the books that I bought via Masterpapers.com review which lacks imagination and passion.

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