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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review: Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

This is a wonderfully evocative dual romance: a touching love story in 1942 London woven with the lives of a 2011 London couple.
by Iona Grey
  • File Size: 791 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (May 26, 2015)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • ASIN: B00P5RA580
  • Genre: Romance
  • My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0

Book Description
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
An accomplished novel from a talented writer, Letters to the Lost is a stunning, emotional love story. Iona Grey's prose is warm, evocative, and immediately engaging; her characters become so real you can't bear to let them go.
I promised to love you forever, in a time when I didn't know if I'd live to see the start of another week. Now it looks like forever is finally running out. I never stopped loving you. I tried, for the sake of my own sanity, but I never even got close, and I never stopped hoping either.
Late on a frozen February evening, a young woman is running through the streets of London. Having fled from her abusive boyfriend and with nowhere to go, Jess stumbles onto a forgotten lane where a small, clearly unlived in old house offers her best chance of shelter for the night. The next morning, a mysterious letter arrives and when she can't help but open it, she finds herself drawn inexorably into the story of two lovers from another time.
In London 1942, Stella meets Dan, a US airman, quite by accident, but there is no denying the impossible, unstoppable attraction that draws them together. Dan is a B-17 pilot flying his bomber into Europe from a British airbase; his odds of survival are one in five. In the midst of such uncertainty, the one thing they hold onto is the letters they write to each other. Fate is unkind and they are separated by decades and continents. In the present, Jess becomes determined to find out what happened to them. Her hope--inspired by a love so powerful it spans a lifetime--will lead her to find a startling redemption in her own life in this powerfully moving novel.

Jess escapes from her abusive boyfriend by running into the night. She eventually stumbles down a dark street and finds a deserted house where she hides until she hears his feet fade away. Having no where to go she sneaks into the house for shelter. The next morning she is pondering what to do when a letter is passed through the mail slot. It is clear that no one has lived in the house for quite a while and she is curious about the mail. Amidst all of the junk mail to 'Nancy' or Occupant comes the new letter addressed to 'Stella' and marked personal and confidential. Jess decides to check it out since it looks so important. She is surprised to find that the letter seeks a long lost loved one. As Jess continues to hide she finds a box of letters hidden in the bedroom. Reading them she finds herself mesmerized by the one sided tale of a love story between British Stella and American pilot, Dan.

Will works for an ancestry trace office and is looking for Nancy. He spots Stella one day but she claims no knowledge. Will perseveres and becomes friends with an elderly neighbor who tells him about Nancy and produces a key to the vacant house. When Will goes to inspect the place he discovers Jess almost dead. He gets her to the hospital and stays to see that she is alright. He is drawn to the frail girl and disappointed when she calls him “Dan” in a moment of delirium. When she awakens she explains about the letters. Together they begin a search for Stella in hoes that they can put her in touch with Dan before illness ends their chance to see each other one more time.

The story shifts scenes from 1942 to 2011 with glimpses of both sets of characters and their growing feelings. I like this technique of weaving two separate relationships. It is like a mystery unfolding or putting pieces of a puzzle together until the full picture is revealed.

Although there are some haunting similarities between Jess and Stella there are also major changes in the societies they have to cope in. Dan and Will are different in temperaments, one eager to enjoy life and the other moody. But when it comes to protecting a woman they have chosen they are quite similar. There is joy with anticipation and hope and shattering heartbreak with fear and despair. The characters are beautifully developed and the settings for the most part accurately portrayed. The writing is beautifully evocative and gave me a sense of being there.

I don’t always like ‘drama’ in my reading but in this book I was completely engaged by both the historic love story and the modern one. This is a debut novel and I certainly would be interested in more by Ms. Grey. I recommend this to readers who love a tender romance because here you get two, one with lovely history!

I am glad I selected this through NetGalley because it sounded interesting and it is beautiful. This will add to my NetGalley Challenge.

About the author:
IONA GREY has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.

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