Letters To The Lost
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 love that draws them together. Dan is a B-17 pilot flying his bomber into Europe from a British airbase; his odds of survival at one in five. The odds are stacked against the pair; 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.
The story is told through dual timelines. One set during the war years where Stella Thorne, a young married woman, meets and falls in love with Dan Rosinski, an American air force pilot.
The second is set in the present day and features Jess and Will. Jess is homeless and desperately trying to escape her past, which includes an abusive boyfriend. Will is recovering from a breakdown caused in no small part by being compared to his over-achieving brother by his parents.
Jess breaks into a house to find sanctuary, but while there, picks up and reads a letter sent by Dan (now ninety years old and terminally ill) to Stella, in the hope of finally getting in touch with her before he dies. Jess finds all the letters that Dan sent to Stella during the war and builds up a picture of this doomed relationship and decides to try to help him.
London in the 1940s war years was beautifully evocative. The sights and smells-“the house reeked of boiled cabbage”; the characters with their make-do-and-mend wartime spirit, all created a wonderful picture to take you straight back to that era. She also delves into the differences between people then and now. Using the dual timelines she juxtaposes Stella and Jess’s stories to highlight these really well; the intolerances, the treatment of mental illness, women’s rights.
The four main characters are so well drawn you really feel they are people you know. I would wake in the morning and my mind would fly to Stella and Dan, eager to get back to their lives.
Dan is the anchor between the two timelines and, just like Stella, it is easy to fall in love with him. he is a charming, brave man, and his and Stella’s story breaks your heart.
There are a couple of major co-incidences to keep the story flowing, but if you can’t suspend your disbelief for a book as good as this then you’re never going to be able to.
I loved this book. It is exceptionally well-crafted. Iona Grey weaves a tale of love, loss and pain and still manages to leave you feeling uplifted. I hope she is writing her next book now because frankly I can’t wait.
The cover on the ARC is one of my favourite covers of all time. Thanks so much to Iona Grey for kindly sending me a copy, I will treasure it.