I bring you a book that I think will become a big favourite for many of you, as it touches on some themes that I know a lot of us are interested in, and it is beautifully written. Another one of Rosie’s great finds.
The Lost Letters: Absolutely heartbreaking wartime fiction about love and family secrets by Sarah Mitchell WWII Historical fiction set in the UK and a gripping family mystery
A gripping book club novel about forbidden love, friendship and family secrets in World War Two. Perfect for fans of The Letter by Kathryn Hughes, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
‘I adored this book, devouring it in a couple of days!… A beautiful and moving story that will stay with me for quite a while. Five shiny stars!!’ Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars
What if keeping your loved ones safe meant never seeing them again?
Norfolk, 1940: Sylvia’s husband Howard has gone off to war, and she is struggling to raise her two children alone. Her only solace is her beach hut in Wells-Next-The-Sea, and her friendship with Connie, a woman she meets on the beach. The two women form a bond that will last a lifetime, and Sylvia tells Connie something that no-one else knows: about a secret lover… and a child.
Canada, present day: When Martha’s beloved father dies, he leaves her two things: a mysterious stash of letters to an English woman called ‘Catkins’ and directions to a beach hut in the English seaside town of Wells. Martha is at a painful crossroads in her own life and seizes this chance for a trip to England – to discover more about her family’s past, and the identity of her father’s secret correspondent.
The tragedy of war brought heartbreaking choices for Sylvia. And a promise made between her and Connie has echoed down the years. For Martha, if she uncovers the truth, it could change everything…
What readers are saying about The Lost Letters:
‘I LOVED this book!… I had to keep reading!… My heart broke.’ Mama’s Book Ramblins
‘A gorgeous debut, crackling with atmosphere and emotion.’ Lucinda Riley, bestselling author of The Love Letter, The Midnight Rose and The Seven Sisters
‘A beautiful, heart-warming, wonderfully written tale! I loved it from start to finish… A story that moved me and one that will stay with me for a very long time.’ Renita D’Silva
‘There is not one thing I did not love about this story. Right from the beginning, I was drawn in… The Lost Letters is a beautiful and poignant story that has completely captured my heart… By far, this might just be my top read for the year.’ Sinfully Wicked Books, 5 stars
‘I absolutely loved this book…I got a lump in my throat at times just reading this part of the story… an emotional, heart-wrenching, beautiful and poignant read that I completely fell in love with… Have the tissues ready for this one, you may need them!’ Katie’s Book Cave, 5 stars
‘Once I got into the book I found myself becoming seriously addicted to reading it… To say that I felt as though I had been through the emotional wringer during the reading of this book is an understatement… tugged on my heartstrings.’ Ginger Book Geek
‘Had me enthralled… a thought-provoking and moving story about identity, family, and friendship. With realistic and believable characters, clues to find and a mystery to solve, this will keep you entertained for hours.’ Novel Deelights
‘So heart-wrenching… what in the world would you do in that situation? There just is no good answer! A beautiful and intriguing story that will keep you turning those pages and wanting to hug your loved ones!’ Goodreads reviewer
‘What an amazing book… Couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
‘The Lost Letters is a well told and poignant story about family secrets which impact on the future, friendship, promises, decisions, and romance… vivid and heart-breaking… absolutely meticulous and totally fascinating.’ Goodreads reviewer
‘A very heart-warming read… a tear-jerker… I highly recommend it to all readers.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
About the author:
THE LOST LETTERS is my first novel, inspired by a visit to Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, where there is a row of iconic beach huts. Some of them looked very old to me, and it made me wonder for how many generations they might have been in the same family and handed down over the years…
I didn’t become a writer until I was in my forties. I studied law and after that practised as a barrister in London for nearly 20 years. For a long while I wanted to write a novel – inspired by my mother who used to write children’s stories for a radio programme called ‘Listen with Mother’ – but it took me a long while to take the plunge and actually make the dream happen. As well as the beach huts, THE LOST LETTERS draws on the decision my grandparents almost made to evacuate my mother to Canada at the start of the Second World War. So much has changed since then, and yet so much – the bonds within a family – are the same. I wanted to explore that in my writing.
I now live back in Norfolk, where I grew up, with my husband and three almost-grown-up children. Norfolk is an extraordinary county and I feel incredibly lucky to live here. I hope THE LOST LETTERS captures a little bit of the beauty of Norfolk, as well as the horror and hardship of war.
You can follow Sarah Mitchell on Twitter at @SarahM_writer
I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the publisher for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
The novel tells two stories centred in two different times, one set in the 1940s, mostly in WWII Norfolk, although with some visits to London, and another taking place now, also set in Norfolk in its majority. The chapters set in the past are written in the past tense from the point of view of Sylvia, a married woman, mother of two children, still pining for her teenage love. When her aunt dies she leaves her a beach hut and through it she meets Connie, a girl from London, and her brother Charlie. Despite the distance and the difficulty in maintaining communication during the war, they become friends, and their lives intertwine in unexpected ways.
The chapters set in the present are written in the present tense (something I must confess took me some time to get used to, although it means it is very difficult to get confused as to where you are or who is talking), and told from the point of view of Martha, a Canadian teacher whose father was evacuated during the war from England to Canada. Following the death of her father and gaps in the information about his childhood (as he was working on an autobiography when he died), she decides to use the opportunity offered by her father’s plane ticket and the hotel and beach hut he had booked to do some research into his past.
Both women, whose stories most readers will guess must be connected in some way, have their own problems. Sylvia’s marriage is not exactly happy, the war takes her husband away, and apart from the everyday danger and destruction, she has to face the evacuation of her son. The author manages to create a good sense of the historical period and, in particular, of women’s lives during the war, without being heavy-handed in the use of descriptions or over-the-top in the nostalgic front. We experience the character’s turmoil, her doubts, and although we might not always agree with her decisions, it is easy to empathise and understand why she does what he does.
Martha is at a bit of a loss. She is divorced and although her ex-husband has moved on (he has remarried and has twins), it is not that clear if she has, as she still sends him birthday cards and seems jealous of her daughter’s relationship with her father’s new wife. She knows her relationship with her daughter Janey, who is studying at Cambridge, is strained but seems to have forgotten how to communicate with her. Her research into her father’s childhood and past gives her a focus, and the mystery behind Catkins (a file her sister finds in her father’s computer) and his/her identity help give her a purpose.
We have some male characters (and Martha’s father and his past are at the centre of the novel), but this is a novel about women: about mothers and daughters, about friends, about women pulling together to survive and to get stronger (I particularly enjoyed the chapters set during the war recalling the tasks women were doing in the home front, and how they supported each other becoming all members of an extended family), about the difficult decisions women were (and are) faced with for the good of their families and their children. The author is very good at conveying the thought processes of her characters and although it also has a great sense of place (and I am sure people familiar with Norfolk will enjoy the book enormously, and those of us who don’t know it as well will be tempted to put it on our list to visit in the future), in my opinion, its strongest point is its great psychological depth.
The book is well researched and it has a lightness of touch, avoiding the risk of slowing down the story with unnecessary detail or too much telling. As the different timelines are kept clearly separate I do not think readers will have any difficulty moving from one to the other.
The book flows well and the intrigue drives the reader through the pages, with red herrings and twists and turns included, although its pace is contemplative, as it pertains to the theme. It takes its time, and it allows its readers to get to know the characters and to make their own conjectures. I worked out what was likely to be the connection slightly before it was revealed, but it is very well done, and I don’t think readers will be disappointed by the ending.
A great first book, that pulls at the heartstrings, recommended to lovers of historical fiction and women’s fiction, especially those interested in WWII and the home front in the UK. I will be following the author’s career with interest in the future.
Thanks to Rosie and her team, to the author, and especially, thanks to all of you for reading my posts. If you enjoy them and you have a moment, please like, share, comment, click and don’t forget to keep reading and smiling! ♥