Friday, 24 April 2015

Letters to the Lost

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey
Published by Simon & Schuster
23rd April 2015
Paperback Edition
1943, in the ruins of Blitzed London…

Stella Thorne and Dan Rosinski meet by chance and fall in love by accident. Theirs is a reluctant, unstoppable affair in which all the odds are stacked against them: she is newly married, and he is an American bomber pilot whose chance of survival is just one in five.

He promised to love her forever

Seventy years later Dan makes one final attempt to find the girl he has never forgotten, and sends a letter to the house where they shared a brief yet perfect happiness. But Stella has gone, and the letter is opened by Jess, a young girl hiding from problems of her own. And as Jess reads Dan's words, she is captivated by the story of a love affair that burned so bright and dimmed too soon. Can she help Dan find Stella before it is too late?

Now forever is finally running out.

This is the second title that I've been sent as part of the Curtis Brown book group.  I have to say that, initially though, I wasn't sold on the book: it sounded a bit too flowery and romancey for my tastes.  However, the blurb did say that if you liked The Guernsey Literacy and Potato Peel Pie Society then you would like this too.  I did enjoy that book, so decided that I'd give the 500+ pages a go...

The story is written in two different timelines, that of the present day, and the other beginning in 1943.  As we know, 1943 is right in the middle of the Second World War, and here we meet Stella Thorne, masquerading as a single girl about town, who fortuitously bumps into American soldier Dan Rosinski one day whilst looking for her missing watch in a church.  When Dan finds her watch he returns it to her in person and a spark is ignited.  Stella is in a loveless marriage to Charles, a vicar, and she finds it hard to resist Dan.  Soon an affair develops that neither one of them wants to end and as Charles is mostly absent during this period, it is much easier for it to continue undetected.  As fate would have it though, just as Stella is planning on leaving Charles for Dan, an ultimatum is issued that makes her choose one over the other....

Alongside this, we met Jess, alone and homeless on the streets of London.  Looking for a safe place to hide from her violent boyfriend, she stumbles upon an empty house that she hides out in.  When a letter arrives from America she is intrigued as to its contents and opens it.  Inside she finds a letter from Dan, now in his 90s and desperate to track down the love of his life.  Jess then discovers the rest of Dan's letters that he wrote to Stella during the war, telling of their fated romance.  Where is Stella now, as it is apparent that the house Jess is in has been empty for some time?  Can Jess find her and let Dan know of her whereabouts before his time runs out?

Iona Grey manages to weave the past and the present together in this story and both strands merge together well.  Jess is a latter-day version of Stella; the girl I imagine she would be if she was growing up in the 21st century.  All through the book you are rooting for Jess to find Stella, or at least what has happened to her, so that Dan can find out the truth.  I'm not a book crier but I know a lot of people have needed tissues at the end of this one - it's a weepy to be sure but well worth the journey.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

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