Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Published by Ballantine Books
Publish Date: July 9, 2013
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.
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.
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.
Letters From Skye will appeal to fans of:
Fantastic Setting: Isle of Skye, Scotland
Guy-Girl Friendship turned relationsip
(that begins with letters!)
Alternating Time Periods
Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
is currently available for purchase.
This is another favorite of mine for the year.
That is all.