Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic The Lost Letters by @SarahM_writer @Bookouture

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell

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The Lost Letters is a dual timeline story, with alternating sections switching between the present and the past just prior to, and during the Second World War. Martha Rodwell is on a quest to discover why her father, who had been writing his memoirs before his sudden death a month ago, had been about to take a trip to England. She and her sister Elizabeth discovered he had booked a hotel and rented a beach hut in Wells-next-the-Sea for the whole month of May.

Her father’s death hit Martha hard and she was having trouble dealing with the emotional fallout. He had been evacuated to Canada during WWII but never wanted to talk about it. So Martha is on a plane bound for England to try and find out why the first twenty years of her father’s life was missing from his notes, what was drawing him to a small coastal town in Norfolk….and who was Catkins? Apart from all that it’s also an opportunity for Martha to visit her daughter who is studying in London and hopefully repair a seemingly fractured relationship.

‘He was found on the porch, surrounded by sheets of writing paper skimming over the lawn and skewered to the rose bushes. Six months previously he had stepped down from the municipal council to write his memoirs. Elizabeth, her sister, had offered to proof read them but she had told Martha that he refused point-blank to let her see them.

’Not until they’re finished,’ he said, And then he mentioned, casually, as if it were of no import at all, that in order to finish them he would need to go back to England.’

Back in time to 1939, we meet Sylvie who is married to Howard with two children, Esther and Lewis. When her aunt dies, Sylvie is surprised to learn she has been left a beach hut in Wells where she was brought up and her parents still live. She meets Connie and her little brother, Charlie at the beach and they become firm friends. Their lives become entwined and the results of their lifelong friendship echoes down through the years.

I enjoyed the alternating storyline, although it’s a little slow to begin with. Martha’s story seemed to take a while to get going but once it did I became more invested in the unfolding tale, as secrets are uncovered and the mystery begins to unravel, not without several realistic twists. Britain during the war is described evocatively, the devastation and destruction, and the evacuation of children. What a terrible decision to have to make, I can’t even imagine.

Characters are believable and well crafted. I liked Martha, Sylvie and Connie very much, their determination and courage stood out. A poignant story of family secrets and the bond of friendship and love, with a surprising conclusion that tied everything up nicely. The Lost Letters is an accomplished debut.

Book description

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…

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WW2 #Histfic The Lost Letters by @SarahM_writer @Bookouture

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell

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Martha, overcomes her terror of flying in order to discover more about her father’s past. Having written about his life in Canada, he was about to return to his roots in East Anglia when he suddenly died. Martha also wants to see her estranged daughter, Janey, who is studying at Cambridge, but first she must solve the mystery of the beach hut he father had rented and the file of letters on his computer to someone called Catkins.

The novel takes us back to World War Two and a friendship between two young women, Sylvie and Connie.  Each is hiding a secret and their unexpected friendship gives them courage to take a bold decision.  We are shown a vivid picture of life in wartime Britain, where women had important roles doing their best for their country in the Women’s Voluntary Service, against a background of bombing and fear.  Relationships between men sent off to fight and their worried wives at home are severely strained and they can easily grow apart.

Martha is an engaging character, whose story, written in the present tense, involves us actively in her compelling adventure, while Sylvie, distanced by the past tense, makes us fear for her future happiness.  Threads are gradually gathered, connecting the women together and enabling Martha to forge a more positive future where she is reunited with her daughter and finally understands her father’s past.

Book description

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…

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WW2 #Histfic The Lost Letters by @SarahM_writer @bookouture

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell

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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.

Book description

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…

AmazonUK | AmazonUS