Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Source: TLC Book Tours and Random House
Hardcover, 304 pages
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Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole, an epistolary novel that straddles two World Wars, is about falling in love, finding your soul mate, and poetry.  Elspeth Dunn, a Scottish poet on the Isle of Skye, lives a rather cloistered life on her island but one of her books makes its way across the Atlantic to a young man in Illinois, David Graham, who writes her a fan letter.  Over the course of several years beginning when WWI breaks out in Europe, Elspeth and David begin a correspondence that takes on a life of its own.

“It’s the war talking.  I know; I’ve seen it.  They head off, invincible, feeling as if the future is a golden pool before them, ready to dive into.  And then something happens — a bomb, a sprained wrist, a bullet that whizzes by too close for comfort — and suddenly they are grabbing for whatever they can hold on to.  That golden pool, it swirls around them, and they worry they might drown if they’re not careful.  They hold tight and make whatever promise comes to mind.  You can’t believe anything said in wartime.  Emotions are as fleeting as a quiet night.”  (page 33 ARC)

While David is in America struggling through college and hoping to subvert his father’s plans for medical school, Elspeth is busy writing poetry and becoming even more entrenched in the lines her muse is offering.  Her relationship with her brother Finlay is the closest she has, but war does change things.  The more her muse speaks, the more she’s pulled away from the life she’s always known and the more she is challenged to face her fears — including her fear of water.

Through Elspeth and David’s correspondence the wider impact of war is experienced, complete with the tension of the home front as wives and families wait for their loved ones.  But at the same time, the lives of women are broadening as they are able to enter into jobs once thought of as men’s work.  The feminist leanings of Elspeth are clearly front and center in some of her correspondence with David, but it never deters him in his pursuit of her.  The moral high ground has no place in this romantic jaunt across Scotland, London, and France as a young woman and man succumb to their emotional connection on the page.

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole weaves Elspeth and David’s story with that of Margaret, Elspeth’s daughter, and her search for the past.  Margaret has never met her father, and her mother remains close-lipped about her past and her daughter’s father.  But when WWII begins to break out, all of the old transgressions and emotional upheaval of Elspeth’s past resurfaces, threatening to leave her unmoored once again.  But Margaret’s life is far from pristine when it comes to the tentacles of war as her fiance flies for the RAF.  Brockmole’s letters are frank, honest, and engaging as these relationships unfold and enfold, creating a family history that will be hard to forget.  And yes, there is a poem included!

About the Author:

Jessica Brockmole spent several years living in Scotland, where she knew too well the challenges in maintaining relationships from a distance. She plotted her first novel on a long drive from the Isle of Skye to Edinburgh. She now lives in Indiana with her husband and two children.

To learn more about Jessica and her work, visit her Website.

To WIN a copy of this book, leave a comment by July 19, 2013, at 11:59 PM EST; You must be a U.S. resident 18 years and older.

This is my 44th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #220

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. May’s host is 4 the LOVE of BOOKS.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received for review:

1.  The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero for review from Penguin.

Roberto Ampuero’s novels starring the wonderfully roguish Cayetano Brulé are an international sensation. In The Neruda Case, readers are introduced to Cayetano as he takes on his first case as a private eye. Set against the fraught political world of pre-Pinochet Chile, Castro’s Cuba, and perilous behind-the-Wall East Berlin, this mystery spans countries, cultures, and political ideas, and features one of literature’s most beloved figures—Pablo Neruda.

Cayetano meets the poet at a party in Chile in the 1970s. The dying Neruda recruits Cayetano to help him solve the last great mystery of his life. As Cayetano fumbles around his first case, finding it hard to embrace the new inspector identity foisted upon him, he begins to learn more about Neruda’s hidden agenda. Neruda sends him on a whirlwind expedition around the world, ending back in Chile, where Pinochet’s coup plays out against the final revelations of their journey.

2.  Our Held Animal Breath by Kathryn Kirkpatrick for review for TLC Book Tours.

Our Held Animal Breath is a collection of poems grappling with the failure of human political and social structures to effectively address the dilemmas of our crucial historical moment.  Registering an eco-feminist consciousness, the narrators of these poems expose the intertwined vulnerabilities of women, animals, and the land to masculinist agendas of mastering nature for profit.

Poems in the opening section explore the ways powerful elites compromise the habitats of human and non-human animals alike.  The lives of tethered foxes, bewildered squirrels, displaced buffalo, and factory-farmed turkeys echo the lives of ordinary citizens experiencing degradation and disenfranchisement in the face of climate change, war-mongering, and political corruption.

3.  Marilyn’s Red Diary by E.Z. Friedel, which came unexpectedly from Meryll L. Moss Media that will likely find a new home.

Based on shocking new information, MARILYN’S RED DIARY documents Miss Monroe’s roller-coaster final years, culminating in her murder.The star, yearning to become a mother, suffers several miscarriages. Distraught, she becomes infatuated with the Kennedy’s, only to be brought down by their enemies. Through her renowned psychiatrist, Marilyn’s medical problems, drug use, and cause of death are explained.

In June of 1960, on the urging of psychiatrist Ralph Greenson, Marilyn Monroe begins keeping a diary. The former foster child feels unloved, unfulfilled, and unappreciated. Professionally, she wants to be considered a serious dramatic actress. Her husband, honored playwright Arthur Miller. has penned THE MISFITS script for her next project. Emotionally, she fervently hopes for a child to begin her family. Despite several pregnancies, Marilyn has been unable to carry to term. She blames her supportive older partner and her own severe gynecological scarring. Extremely promiscuous, she remains hopelessly in love with John Kennedy, the dashing Senator who is beginning his presidential campaign. After a decade long affair, they are once again hot and heavy.

4.  The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje, which I got at the library sale.

Michael Ondaatje’s new selected poems, The Cinnamon Peeler, brings together poems written between 1963 and 1990, including work from his most recent collection, Secular Love. These poems bear witness to the extraordinary gifts that have won high praise for this truly original poet and novelist.

5. Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole from the publisher for a TLC Book Tour.

A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.   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.

What did you receive?