To The Letter

Several of my all time favorite books, which you will find included in this category, are written in the epistolary style. The format usually consists of correspondence written by the main character to various other people-it is a one way street. I branched out in my reading for this category to include books that include letters back and forth, both real people and fictional characters, and novels/compilations immersed in prose.
I am pleased to say that I found some new favorites to put on my forever shelf -but to be honest not all were quite to my reading taste. I had planned to read a compilation of the letters between the Mitford sisters and while I do find these sisters fascinating I do not know enough of their history to find their letters enjoyable reading. My solution will be to find a good biography to get a better handle on the lives of these sisters before attempting again. I replaced this book with a book of correspondence between Julia Child and her best friend Avis. I was completely happy to have been forced into make this switch.
I need to go back and re-read a couple of these books, especially Meet Me At The Museum, as I read these books in the company of my terminally ill cat. I read them sitting on the floor-one handed-so that I could cradle Frank's head in my other hand, while he lay in his favorite chair. I was happy to oblige and I will be especially happy to read Meet Me at the Museum again as it really resonated with me at the time.
Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

Thank you Gill Hornby, Flatiron Books and NetGalley for gifting me this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published in the US on April 7, 2020.

Gill Hornby treats her readers to a thoughtful reimagining of Jane Austen’s adult life and early demise utilizing the point of view of her older sister, Cassandra—the story also moves back and forth in time, a favorite plotting device for me.

Using brilliantly reimagined correspondence and conversations the story dips into the shared life of Jane and Cassandra and in doing so pays a lovely tribute to sisterhood, friendship and the various choices the women characters in this novel make out of a sense of duty. Duty not only to family but to creative genius as well.

Two decades after Jane’s death this novel finds Cassandra- now in her 60’s— working to preserve her sister’s reputation. Cassandra wants to shape the narrative so that her sister’s life is perceived as forever calm—unruffled by drama and scandal. She feels it is her duty to curate Jane’s good reputation—she seeks to portray Jane’s  life as one of quiet creativity, spent in the sheltering bosom of her happy family.

Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster

I stumbled across this book in my youth. I loved it. I have read it multiple times. This book is most likely the beginning of my love of the epistolary style.  I will have to admit though (especially in the age of metoo) it gets a little creepier with each re-reading. But as with Gone With the Wind it will remain one of my forever favorites.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Another book I really enjoyed, set on an island, where through some quirk in the universe letters of the alphabet keep disappearing--I really hope I kept this one because writing this blurb a couple of years later makes me want to read it again.

Meet Me At The Museum by Anne Youngson

This book deeply resonated with me-however, I read it while sitting on the floor by my terminally ill cat (I miss him so much) who found solace laying with his head cupped in my hand. I am planning a very much anticipated re-read hopefully soon. I will write more about this book at that time.

Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence

Dear Fahrenheit 451,

You seem a delightful book but it is not our time. At this point in my reading life I need deep engrossing reads. So I am sending you off with a break up letter--its not you its me--but rest assured I am not weeding you out but merely re-shelving at this point.

With Warm Regards,

Categorically Well-Read Management

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

I very much enjoyed reading this book but I am writing this a couple of years later. I wouldn't mind giving it a re-read--hope it is down on my forever shelf. It is curious how letter writing often tends to stir romance--marriage and/or indfidelity especially in fiction. 

A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

This is probably my favorite book and this is at least my fourth journey through these letters. Sometimes a book comes across your path at just the right time and so is the case with this one. I found myself reading it again in December 2019 at just the point when I needed nothing more than a strong talking to by fiercely independent woman, like Bess, who strongly advocates being in charge of your own financial destiny. Love her or hate her, Bess's outspoken audacity makes me laugh out loud at her nerve.

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

A very simple, short story--a classic tale of a friendship that grew out of the shared love of books. This true story is told through the 20 years of transatlantic correspondence between New York City based author, Helene Hanff and the English proprietor and staff of Messrs. Marks & Co., the sellers of rare and secondhand books located at 84 Charing Cross Road, London. The book is mostly set in the late 1940's and 50's giving a compelling look at the deprivation felt by Englanders immediately following the second World War. I will read this book again and again.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

I had often glanced at this book as I browsed through the shelves of many a book store. I am glad I resisted its lure until now and it has proven to be a perfect fit into multiple categories. I will read this book again with pleasure (and indeed I have). This book is also set in England, as it emerges out of the shadow of the second World War. A London author who is looking for the subject for her next book receives a letter from a stranger who lives on the island of Guernsey--he had found her address in a book he had bought secondhand. They begin a correspondence, she travels to Guernsey, it turns into a love story, not just romance, but the power of books to transform lives. This novel has a strong back drop of history and is told using the literary style of correspondence, a style I adore, we read the letters shared between herself, this stranger, her editor, her fiancee, and the fellow members of this Guernsey based literary society.



Lady Susan by Jane Austen

A novella composed of letters from Lady Susan to a variety of others--family members, friends, lovers, etc. She is a very repellent character and if you can get past that and simply enjoy the Jane Austen of it all then it makes for reading time well spent.

Hi! I'm Debbie. Here at Categorically Well-Read I give an extra layer to the reading life. Learn more about me, check out my current category of books, submit your own suggestion, or check out my latest post.