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review 2018-10-11 18:32
WWII Historical fiction set in the UK and a gripping family mystery
The Lost Letters - Sarah Mitchell

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the publisher for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

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.

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review 2018-04-02 00:00
Letters to the Lost
Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer ⭐️5 stars⭐️

A photo is just that: a moment in time.
We don't know what's really going on with the people in the picture. And we don't know what's going on with the photographer.
What makes it important is what we bring to the photo.
What makes it important is how we feel when we look at it.
And a photograph doesn't have to be about riots or death or famine or children at play in war zone to make an impact.
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-17 15:40
Der Himmel in deinen Worten // Letters to the Lost
Der Himmel in deinen Worten - Brigid Kemmerer,Henriette Zeltner

German and english review
First things first: I received this book through NetGalley.

 

Wow wow WOW!!!! Das ist eins von den Büchern, die ich nicht habe kommen sehen. Für mich hat es ziemlich holprig und langsam gestartet und ich war mir nicht sicher, ob ich jemals richtig reinfinden könnte. Aber dann haben wir mehr über die Charaktere erfahren und schon hat es mich richtig in den Bann gezogen und ich wollte es am Liebsten nicht mehr aus der Hand legen.

 

Inhalt: Immer hat Juliet Briefe an ihre Mutter geschrieben – selbst nach deren Tod vor Monaten hinterlässt sie ihr Nachrichten am Grab. Eines Tages findet sie eine Antwort: von einem Jungen, der genauso verzweifelt ist wie sie. Spontan schreibt sie zurück, und der Gedankenaustausch wird ihr zunehmend wichtiger. Doch dann erfährt Juliet, wem sie ihre tiefsten Gefühle offenbart hat. Sie kann nicht fassen, dass die Worte, die sie so berührt haben, von einem Loser wie Declan stammen. Oder ist seine raue Fassade nur ein Schutz, hinter dem sich eine verletzliche Seele verbirgt?

 

Die Geschichte an sich ist einfach wunderschön und dazu wirklich auch noch so unheimlich schön geschrieben, dass ich total darüber hinweg sehen kann, dass ich am Anfang nicht so wusste, was ich so von all dem halten soll. Es ist eine Geschichte, die mit der Zeit immer besser wird und die einen am Ende in die Knie zwingt und man sich zusammen rollen will, weil einen all die Gefühle erdrücken, die auf einen einprasseln. ICH LIEBE ES.

 

Ich mochte Juliet von Anfang an. Bei Declan hatte ich absolut meine Probleme und wusste garnicht wie ich ihn einschätzen und was ich von ihm halten soll. Was alleine deswegen so war, weil Juliet ihre Gefühle nach außen hin gezeigt hat, man wusste warum sie tut was sie tut, während Declan alles für sich behalten hat und einfach jeden angegangen ist, der ihn auch nur schief angeguckt hat. Deswegen brauchte ich eine Weile länger um Declan zu verstehen. Doch bis zum Ende des Buches ist er mir wirklich unheimlich ans Herz gewachsen.

 

Ich mochte die vielen Beziehungen in dem Buch, so unterschiedlich und teilweise kompliziert sie auch waren.
Die Freundschaft zwischen Declan und Rev (vor allem super, dass er seine eigene Geschichte hatte, seine eigenen Dämonen, und nicht einfach nur, der beste Freund war).
Ich mochte die verschiedenen Beziehungen zwischen den Kids und den erwachsenen Figuren.
Juliet und die Erinnerung an ihre Mutter, die holprige Beziehung zu ihrem Vater.
Declan, der bei Rev's Eltern, bei Frank, und bei Ms Hillard, so viel mehr Unterstützung bekommt als zu Hause, die ihn mehr halt gegeben haben und ihn nie aufgegeben haben auch wenn er es ihnen stellenweise absolut nicht leicht gemacht hat.
Declan, seine Mutter und Alan. Die Entwicklung, die zwischen den dreien passiert ist, als sie endlich all ihre Vorurteile gegenüber einander überwunden hatten und wirklich miteinander gesprochen haben, als Geheimnisse über Declan und seinen Vater, über den Unfall ausgesprochen wurde und einfach viel offener miteinander umgegangen wurde. Als Lösungen gesucht wurden anstatt einfach nur Frust aneinander auszulassen. Ich glaube der Teil hat mich am Meisten aufgewühlt und mich wirklich emotional total überwältigt.
Und dann natürlich Juliet und Declan. Ich liebe es, dass es im Vordergrund stand, dass die Beiden jemanden finden mit dem sie reden können, denen sie Dinge erzählen können, die sie sich bei anderen nicht trauen. Dass sie sich durch die Briefe und die Emails gegenseitig geholfen haben. Dass es nicht einfach nur darum ging, dass sich ein Junge und ein Mädchen schreiben und sich ineinander verlieben und boom. Es ging um so viel mehr.

 

Ich kann das Buch wirklich nur jedem empfehlen. Ich brauch jetzt jedenfalls ein paar Stücken Schokolade um mein Gefühlsleben wieder ins Gleichgewicht zu bringen.

 

***

 

Wow wow WOW!!!! This is one of those books that you don't see coming. For me the beginning was really rocky and slow and I wasn't entirely sure if that was gone be a book for me and if I will ever get into the story. But as soon as we found out more of the characters, I was sucked in and had a hard time putting the book down.

 

Summary: Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

 

The story itself was just beautiful and also very beautifully written, so much so, that I could totally see past the bumpy beginning, were I didn't actually know what to make of this book. It's a book that just gets better with time and that has you on your knees at the end, were you just wanna curl into a ball, because there are so many feelings that you feel all at ones. I LOVE IT.

 

I loved Juliet right from the beginning. With Declan I had lots of problems in the beginning and didn't know what to make of him. And that's because they are both so different, while Juliet shows her feelings on the outside and we know why she is doing what she is doing, with Declan, he kees everything inside and just jumps in everyones face who looks at him weird. So it takes much more time and more effort to really get to know Declan and understand him. But throughout the book he really grew on me more and more.

 

I loved all the relationships in the book, they were all so different and partly really complicated and difficult.
The friendship between Declan and Rev (especially the fact, that he had it's own story, his own demons that he was batteling with and he wasn't just the best friend).
I loved the different relationships between the kids and the adults.
Juliet and the memory of her mother, her bumpy relationship with her father.
Declan, who got much more support from Rev's parents, from Frank, and Ms Hillard, who had his back and who never gave up on him, no matter how hard he actually made it for them to stick with him.
Declan, his mother and Alan. The development between these three as soon as they got over the prejudice they had towards each other, as soon as secrets were being revealed about Declan and his father and the accident and as soon as they just were much more open to each other. As soon as they were looking for solutions instead of just letting out their frustration on each other. I think that part got to me the most and that just destroyed me emotionally.
And then Juliet and Declan, of course. I love how this was mostly about these two finally finding someone to talk to, were they could talk about things they couldn't talk about with anyone else. That through the letters and emails they could help each other. It wasn't just about a boy and a girl writing to each other, falling in love and boom. It was so so so much more.


I highly recommend this book to everyone. I, myself, need a few pieces of chocolate now to bring some balance back into my emotional life.

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review 2017-06-09 11:52
Review: Letters to the Lost
Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This was a gutwrencher of a book. I could only read it in short spurts because the emotional upheaval was so deep.

 

The novel tells the story of Juliet and Declan, both of whom are dealing with tough losses, both as results of tragic car accidents. Declan lost his younger sister, Juliet lost her mother.

 

 Declan appears to be your typical YA bad boy. Darkly good looking, grumpy yet possibly a lot smarter than everyone thinks he is. He’s sullied by a bad reputation. Whereas Juliet is a typical high school good girl. She has a run in with Declan in the halls one morning and accidentally spills her coffee on him running to class. However, when a teacher comes in a finds him moaning about it and yelling at her, he’s the one who’s carted off to detention.

 

Juliet has been spending a lot of time at the cemetery where her mother is buried and leaves her letters. Declan has community service with the grounds keeper at the same cemetery and one day he finds the unsigned letter Juliet has left her mother. And responds to it. Leading to a letter writing exchange without names. Where both parties explore their grief and guilt over their own losses and start to talk to each other in a way they can’t open up to anyone else.

 

The grief poured into the letters is raw and unflinching, mixing of guilt, anger and responsibility. Juliet and Declan are able to explore feelings they have never admitted to anyone else before, it’s much easier to talk to someone anonymous than admit these feelings their closest friends. The letters eventually become emails.

 

Yet in real life whenever Juliet and Declan have run-ins with each other, it’s unpleasant. They rub each other the wrong way. Yet keep finding themselves running into each other. He helps her out several times. And sometimes some of the things anonymous Declan says in his letters resonate deeply with Juliet, particularly when he talks about how unfair it is that with a bad reputation that wasn’t his fault he’s blamed automatically even when things aren’t his fault. This makes her start to try to open up.

 

Both have tough home situations, Juliet’s dad is trying but kind of absent and checked out. Juliet’s mom was a renowned photographer who was often out of the country in dangerous places. War zones and such. There’s a very hard hitting scene at the front of the book where Juliet’s dad asks her if he can sell her mom’s camera equipment to her mother’s agent, and Juliet falls to pieces. It’s tough to read and absolutely heart breaking.

 

While Declan’s mother is equally passive. His father is in jail after the accident that killed Declan’s sister, and his mom has since  gone through a patch of bad relationships and finally married a snotty man who has taken an instant disliking to Declan (bad reputation at fault again) and automatically assumes the worst. They argue a lot and Declan’s mom just won’t step in to defend her son.

 

Though Declan doesn’t help himself with an equally pissy attitude. Though it’s clear he loves his mom he’s obviously frustrated by her at the same time. His support system comes from his best friend Rev and his family. Who are all awesome.

 

Juliet and Declan keep finding themselves thrown together and start realising who the person they’re writing to might be. Which shocks both of them. But their feelings for each other are growing deeper and deeper despite their equal reluctance to admit the truth and open up to each other for real. Both find themselves dealing with some home truths in their own home lives which shock them to their cores.

 

It’s kind of obvious what’s going to happen in the romance department, but even you the way the story is written makes the reader want to get these two together. (Or it certainly did for me).

 

Beautifully written with some incredible characters. I loved it so much I bought a finished copy as well.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-03-28 20:26
Letters to the Lost/Brigid Kemmerer
Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

 

I didn’t find this to be a particularly outstanding YA but it was very sweet and an easy read.

 

The book is predictable in the typical manner of YA romances, though it did have some depth to it. I enjoyed hearing the way that Juliet and Declan challenged each other’s stereotypes and found the way they grew as a result to be heartwarming. Though it does follow the good girl goes for bad guy archetype, it did so enjoyably.

 

The strongest point of this was really their parents—Declan’s relationship with his stepfather evolved in a thoughtful way and their interactions felt extremely real. Similarly, Juliet’s dealing with her grief over her mother and the decisions she had made was insightful. These aspects really made the book a strong read.

 

If you’re looking for an easy read, this is a good choice.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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