Letters From Skye

Letters From Skye

A Novel

Book - 2013
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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.

Praise for Letters from Skye

" Letters from Skye is a captivating love story that celebrates the power of hope to triumph over time and circumstance."-- Vanessa Diffenbaugh, New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers

"[A] remarkable story of two women, their loves, their secrets, and two world wars . . . [in which] the beauty of Scotland, the tragedy of war, the longings of the heart, and the struggles of a family torn apart by disloyalty are brilliantly drawn, leaving just enough blanks to be filled by the reader's imagination." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Tantalizing . . . sure to please readers who enjoyed other epistolary novels like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ." --Stratford Gazette
"An absorbing and rewarding saga of loss and discovery." --Kate Alcott, New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker
"A sweeping and sweet (but not saccharine) love story." -- USA Today
"[A] dazzling little jewel." -- Richmond Times-Dispatch
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, 2013.
ISBN: 9780345542601
Characteristics: 290 pages ; 22 cm.


From the critics

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Sep 11, 2020

London, England 1940...when a bomb blast in the street opens a wall in their home and reveals hidden love letters from WWI, Margaret Dunn is shocked at her Mothers’s reaction as the letters float to the floor. British poet, Elspeth Dunn pursued an illicit, intoxicating love affair with an American ambulance driver in the previous war. Broken family ties and a search for a never forgotten past told through letters makes for a quick, light read. For readers who enjoyed Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters, Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer.

TSCPL_AlexH Feb 20, 2020

I couldn’t finish this book. I wanted to like it so much because it has so many elements of a book I enjoy (the time period, the letters, the little family mystery) but I found the main characters of David and Elspeth horrible. David struck me as an obnoxious man-child and I just wanted him to shut-up and go away. He isn’t funny and he isn’t endearing. Elspeth is married and this awful man from America just how much she loves him. I mean, great, you don’t love your husband (who she never talks about so he could be a perfectly fine human being for all I know) but to say in a letter to David that she doesn’t want him joining WWI because she doesn’t want a reason to worry (meaning she’s not worried about her brother or husband fighting) irks me to no end. Even if you don’t love your husband can’t you be worried for his sake simply out of the fact you’ve known him your whole life? For the sake of your brother who has been friends with him since childhood? Can’t you be worried because no one should have to die horribly in a war so far away? If the characters had been likeable or in some small way sympathetic, I wouldn’t have minded the affair, I think (I mean, I love Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff and Cathy are terrible people). I tried to finish the book for the parts centering on Elspeth’s daughter Margaret, but I hated her mother too much and gave up. The premise sounded amazing but the characters let me down hard.

Feb 13, 2020

Written in letters between an American college student and a married poet living on the Isle of Skye during WWI. Sweet and a quick read. Not as funny or with as many quirky characters as "The Guernesy Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society", but an enjoyable read.

Jan 28, 2020

A lovely story. If you liked the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you will enjoy this novel.

Nov 25, 2019

I read quite a bit of historical fiction, but not so much about World War I and II. Letters From Skye is charming, yet forgettable. It's a breeze to get through, since the entire book is told in letter format, with a short story and a few newspaper articles thrown in for good measure. Ironically, this couple, who has 95% of their interactions on paper, suffer from miscommunication- and that is one of my least favorite cliches. The ending was unbelievably frustrating. There's an important plot point revealed at the end of the book (like it's a big secret) that I figured out from the first chapter. I'm still trying to decide if it was meant to be a big reveal or not. Not only that, the issues they all had could have been cleared up with a single conversation- a visit, or a meet up. It's like Elspeth, Finlay and Davey spent 20 years in a coma and just suddenly woke up one day in the 40's and decided to fix their lives.
I'm not really sure who this book appeals to. There's not really enough here to engage a historical fiction/WWI/WW2 fan, and there's not really enough of a romance here to satisfy the romantics. Since the story is all told in letters, what little actual contact the characters have with each other is recounted and referred to in the past, and there isn't much detail. It's decent for what it is. It reads quickly and it's entertaining, but it's also frustrating and left me wanting. If you're looking for something light and easy without a ton of substance, this is it.

Oct 11, 2018

A wonderful love story spanning the decades between the First and Second World Wars.

Oct 22, 2017

Beautiful love story that spans two generations and two World Wars. I especially enjoyed the detail and history provided about military rescue ambulance drivers in WWI. My grandfather was a U.S. army medic and ambulance driver, so it was inspirational to learn more details about his service in WWI.

samdog123 Jul 15, 2017

Lovely easy read. The main characters, Elspeth and Davey, fall in love through an exchange of letters. As a young college student, Davey writes to Elspeth and expresses his admiration for her book of poetry. Elspeth, living on the remote island of Skye, responds and so begins a correspondence that begins before the first world war and continues all throughout it. I find books told in letter format very easy and comfortable to read, almost like short stories. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.

Mar 02, 2017

I read this book in one afternoon about a year ago and I took it out again today only to finish it again in one sitting. I must say this is one of my favourite books of all time!

ArapahoeLesley Nov 23, 2016

Just a lovely historical fiction novel based on the beautiful Isle of Skye.

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DanniOcean Sep 02, 2013

An epistolary novel is one written as a series of letters or diary entries. Generally this makes them both quick to read and very tantalizing, as readers become virtual voyeurs into the lives of those penning the letters. Letters from Skye is this kind of novel, and also one that time-shifts to a certain extent. Elspeth Dunn, a poet on the Isle of Skye in Scotland is flattered to get a letter from a fan from America, a young man named Davey. Where Davey has bravado and gumption, Elspeth is spirited but cautious. Where Davey is uncertain of his future, Elspeth knows where she belongs. Yet so begins a long correspondence through which they encourage each other, share dreams and fears, and eventually fall deeply in love. World War I brings Davey to Europe and they are finally able to meet, but with devastating consequences.
A mere 20-odd years later on the eve of World War II, Margaret visits her mother Elspeth in Edinburgh to tell her she and her childhood sweetheart have become engaged, even though Paul has joined up to fight. Elspeth is furious but before Margaret can discern why, the house is nearly destroyed by a bomb and Margaret finds her shocked mother clutching a sheaf of letters from someone named Davey to a woman called Sue. And then... Elspeth disappears.
Elspeth has always hidden part of her past from Margaret, and now Margaret is determined to reach out to relatives she has never met to both find her mother and mend their rift, and discover what it was in her mother's past that made her shut herself off from part of the world. Thus readers are treated to not only Elspeth's full story, but Margaret's discovery of a family, a history and a mother she never really knew.
Although more bittersweet in nature, Letters from Skye is sure to please readers who enjoyed other epistolary novels like The Guernsey Literary and Potato-Peel Society, or novels of deep and enduring love, like Samatha Sotto's Before Ever After.


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