Journey to Skye: slip into Elspeth’s shoes, one letter at a time,… “Letters from Skye” by Jessica Brockmole an epistolary novel which stitches into your heart

Posted Wednesday, 3 July, 2013 by jorielov , , , 4 Comments

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Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
 Published By: Ballantine Books,
an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, 9 July 2013

Official Author Websites: Site | Twitter | Facebook
Page Count: 304

Converse via Twitter: #LettersFromSkye

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Acquired Book By: Book Browse First Impressions Programme: I received a complimentary ARC in exchange for my honest review on Book Browse, from the publisher Ballantine Books. Letters from Skye was amongst the offerings for May 2013, as this book will be published 9th of July 2013. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared therein or herein.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comWhat drew my eye to want to drink in this story: I am not sure about you, but whenever I read the premise of a novel on the flyleaf OR on the backside, I immediately start to assert an impression of what the story inside potentially will contain. “Letters from Skye” held within its synopsis a few key words that made me want to devour the story and step into Elspeth’s shoes! Those words and expressions of Ms. Brockmole’s voice which drew an inward breath of delight were as follows: atmospheric {a sense of a foreboding and mysterious presence or adventure}, poet on a remote Scottish island named Skye {gives a sense of solidarity and isolation, as much as a wind-swept glossing of natural beauty}, the time slip between World War I and World War II {a labyrinth of choices to explore and walk down}, a love bourne through and sustained by letters {for a correspondent, I nearly could not be patient enough to learn if I would receive this selection! i was thus determined to read it!}, and lastly, a disappearance that was unexpected. That last bit always lends itself to a deeper mystery and a deeper meaning of what the whole of the novel will encompass because people who exit abruptly from their lives are attempting to resolve a confliction in the past or present, in order to resolve their future.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comWhy I think they should leave the Editor’s Note as a foreword to novels: Previously I had been completely unaware of the nature of ARCs and of the differences that lay inside their printings. One of the obvious things to note is that there not final copies set for publication but rather instead uncorrected proofs by which still have a bit to go ahead of release! Therefore as you receive them, you start to notice the different ways each publisher chooses to market their author and the author’s work. Yet. They have this lovely addition that is always absent in the final copy that we see by way of libraries and bookshoppes, something you wouldn’t expect to hold such key secrets into the reason behind why the book was published OR the very stirring of what the editor felt when she or he first read the manuscript! This delightful insight is contained generally on the very first page of the ARC, so it’s an ARC’s reader’s first introduction to what their about to read.

Letters to Skye’s Editor’s Note spoke about the technologic shift in communication and how as our lives ebb forward and away from inter-personal communication {ie: letters by postal mail, meet-ups over coffee or tea, dinner parties, and other such venues where you’re committed to conversing directly with your conversationist companion} we are losing a vital piece of our humanity. I have oft spoke of this myself in my own friendship circles as much as my own community. I am paraphrasing her words and even adding in a bit of my own, but the essence of what she is lamenting about is if we’re not careful all of our interactions will become virtual and unspoken.

Even letters by postal mail have an intimacy and immediacy to them. They evoke a calling back to revealing our inner selves and most internal of thoughts in an open and accepting manner. They pull back the pretense and the uncertainty of acceptance we might face in person because of the format by which we are using to communicate. A letter is a transformative medium where we can be ourselves without the pre-occupation of noticing our insecurities. This is a general theme that is even carried out throughout the novel, as anyone who has ever been a correspondent will notice the same truths as their friendships develop and evolve.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comRead an Excerpt of the Novel:

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole by Random House Publishing Group

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comAn ethereal atmospheric cover design which begs the question: if the place your going to be transported too is as ethereal as the design that this cover art provokes to mind! However, the cover art of the ARC was not the same as the art shown through the Excerpt by Scribd! Instead, your given a photograph viewing of the inside of Elspeth’s cottage: David’s grandfather’s pocket watch, Isle of Sky peeking out through the window, two individual pearls: one for her necklace from Christmas 1915 and one for Margaret; a smattering of postcards, envelopes and a fountain pen; perhaps a posy that would draw to mind the one Elspeth left for Iain on his grave!? Along with a short stack of hardback novels, which were always being passed between David and Elspeth OR at the very least mentioned to be read!

There is such a personal touch on the cover of the ARC, that draws out pieces of the story in such a clever way, that I am not sure if the original ethereal version holds as much weight when you stop to consider what the publisher placed inside this alternative one!? All too often I am discovering that rather than being careful about what is adorned on the covers, on the level, of actually pertaining to the breadth of the story inside the pages, publishers are short-changing the reader by using stock photographs and arrangements that either are loosely conceived as plausible OR too far-fetched to take seriously! I finally gave up on taking anything away from most covers of books that I read,… which is why saying that as I read “Letters from Skye” the ARC’s cover propelled me to think back and ponder the exactness of what is described! Food for thought, I’d say!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comAnd, why the hours dissolved away like fragments of a whispering wind:  I was a bit delayed in reading “Letters from Skye” due to a relapsed virus that left me miserably fatigued! I had been aching to dip into this narrative ever since it first arrived by Post! I think that is singularly my favourite moment of receiving a First Impressions Book ~ the air of anticipation that greets you as you pick up the package and dare to wonder, what will I find inside!? The very instant that I settled into my comfy chair to disappear into this Scottish Isle of mystery, (as I had watched the book trailer as soon as I had found it [how could I wait?]), I noticed ever so slightly that this was the story that would dissolve hours away like fragments of a whispering wind! The format was completely foreign to me, and yet, it was quite familiar at the very same time! I have been reading letters from my own friends for the near-full of my life!! Once I realised the rhythm of the story, I nearly could hear a whispering of wind, the only fraction of the passing time, as I sank further and further into the exchanges between Elspeth and Davey! When the outside world disappears to the brink you have to force your eyes and being back into your own reality, that is when you know, you’ve stumbled across a book that has captured your heart!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThe review I posted on Book Browse:

Journey to Skye: slip into Elspeth’s shoes, one letter at a time

Elspeth is a Highlander Scot endowed to reside on the enchanted Isle of Skye, which sparks an intuitive creative voice inside her soul as a young girl. She learnt to channel this gift by etching her observations and heartfelt wisdoms into droplets of visceral poetry. Inasmuch as igniting a young man half a world away to discover something he had not felt was lost and conveyed his gratitude by penning her a letter. A letter he never expected her to reply too and thus began their entwined story. Of a woman entrapped by fear of the sea by which she couldn’t allow herself to experience the world beyond Skye and of a boy struggling to become a man on the threshold of war.

Letters are at their very core intimately raw in their conveyance of our innermost thoughts and emotions. We can spilt onto a page by word and context a connection that goes deeper than the superficial, fully absent of pretense and rightly an instinctive pause to reveal our truest of selves. You become lost in their exchanges to the brink that each time slip between the World Wars loses its mirth and all that is left is the anticipation of what news the next letter shall bring! You’re caught in a vortex of uncertainty living through each painful revelation and consolation between Elspeth and David.

And, yet this is a story that involves Margaret, the daughter of Elspeth who never knew her origins nor understood her mother as a woman. She too, is on a collision course with destiny that is half stitched in the past and half propelled forward by future events. Your heart aches and bleeds with Elspeth as she becomes fraught with despair and the anguish of the unknown. The churning of the tides ebbs and flows during the second half of the novel, but it’s not foreshadowed to reveal the ending which washes away the dried tears and leaves the reader a smile upon her lips!


And, here are the other thoughts which First Impression readers shared after having read “Letters from Skye”. Only a small bit of my review was edited after I posted it, as the word “learnt” was exchanged for “learned”. I was expecting it might be edited for length, as try as I might to stay within the 200 to 300 word limitations,… I find myself at a loss to always rein my thoughts into that perimeter! This review clocked in at: 332 words!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comInspired to Share: As soon as this book trailer begins, I was wrapped inside a time portal to a new land of adventurous proportions! The sweeping arc of the book trailer is reminiscent of a motion picture ~ your embarking a brief stay inside the world of Elspeth’s Skye and the very eternal hope that sparks alive inside the idea that a person’s life can be lived, breathed, and evolved through the exchangement of letters. Envelopes ever so tiny, yet ever so vital to parlay information between two souls whose paths have intertwined through a chance encounter inspired by a book of poetry. You can feel the emotional churning of the novel in this book trailer. You sense the heart-wrecking disconnection between Elspeth and David, as much as you see a kernel of Hope lit strong as the picture dissolves and you have to wait until you pick up the book to see how it all unfolds. This is the type of book trailer that readers live to see ahead of sinking into a piece of narrative. A flashing glimpse of two hearts and two characters, spread throughout the span of two World Wars and a lifetime of letters. How can you not want to drink in their story? A story translucent and sageful within our own lifetime.

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole, Book Trailer by Windmill Books, a division of Random House Publishing Group. Windmill Books main website.

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Fly in the Ointment: The only discerning issue I took with the novel is that throughout the years of correspondences, David acknowledges Elspeth as “Sue” which for me, did not suit her very well! It came out of left field as far as I am concerned, because I could not discern the way by which he sorted out how that would ‘fit’ her personality and character traits!? Afterall, she’s a Highlander Scot living a kissing distance from the sea in a sheltering small hamlet of Gaelic origins! Most of the women in the novel are named traditionally for the time frame: Margaret, Lara, Iain, Alasdair, Elsie, and Chrissie for instance, and the author used the Gaelic form of ‘mother’ {Màthair} to reflect Elspeth’s Mum, and Da to reflect father, is why I suppose I was a bit disappointed in the a plum usage of “Sue”.

Conversely, having had the pleasure of borrowing the Complete Series of Monarch of the Glen AND Foyle’s War through my local library — I must contend that I picked up subtle differences in dialect. For instance, I am not sure why “learned” was not “learnt” as an example of certain key words of Scottish/British/UK origins were not shown in full light. I have many memories of watching Monarch of the Glen ill-fated to not understand all the dialogue taking place because of the baroque accent and unfamiliarity of the words used. In this way, I can understand if the author decided to Anglicize Elspeth’s letters for broader audience appealment. Personally, I would have rather read a more authentic difference between Elspeth’s and David’s letters.

Personally I can relay that when your corresponding with a friend who lives elsewhere than you, on a whole new continent and grows up with a language unlike your own, part of the joy and treasurement of your developing friendship are the subtle differences in phrase and language! I have been honoured to have such a diverse array of friends whose first language was not English OR even British English, whereupon we learnt more about each other in how our words inked onto the page! The differences between American and British English can fill the ocean it takes to cross by way of the Queen Mary! It’s a full learning curve and I think, as I have fond memories of my personal correspondences, I noticed this absence in Letters from Skye.

I decided to share these parting thoughts on my blog verse inside my review for Book Browse because they do not deter from the story nor would they prevent the pleasure of reading it. These two things that resonated with me, but I did not think needed to be broached in a review but rather as an aside on my blog!

Having secured myself into the styling of this novel, I began to seek out other writers who have done the same: The beauty of the internet for writers and readers is the jettison point to unearth research into whichever topic or subject is fully lit and burnt inside our minds! After I read my first epistolary novel, I daresay I must confess “I am hungry for more!”  Epistolary novels apparently are not a new structure for literary explorations as amongst the list given the following stood out:

  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall {1848} by Anne Brontë
  • The Woman in White {1859} by Wilkie Collins
  • The Moonstone {1868) by Wilkie Collins
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower {1999} by Stephen Chbosky
  • Clara Callan {2001} by Richard B. Wright
  • Where Rainbows End {2004} by Cecelia Ahern
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society {2008} by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Burley Cross Postbox Theft {2010} by Nicola Barker

One of the mentions is of Bridget Jones’ Diary {1996} by Helen Fielding, which I can attest at having given a go at reading a short age ago, yet never fully finding myself settled into it. When the motion picture of the novel was released, the story not only pulled together for me, but Bridget Jones became a girl you wanted to rally behind as she represented any woman finding herself at a crossroads in her contemporary life without the knowledge of how to right her sails or navigate the changes that eventually come to us all. And, yes, the sequel was equally enjoyed but I felt short-changed in not having a third to quench the questions of how it all concludes!

Another example of my preference for a motion picture version would be the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot! And, thankfully there is one inclusion by which I am already an appreciator of: Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock!!

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Here is an extensive listing of contemporary epistolary novels which might implore you to find a few to enjoy, too!

  • 84 Charing Cross Road {1970} by Helene Hanff
  • The Historian {2005} by Elizabeth Kostova
  • The Prestige {1995} by Christopher Priest
  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man {1987} by H.F. Saint
  • The Beatrice Letters {2006} by Lemony Snickett

Of this listing, the one that surprised me was “The Prestige” as I am aware of the motion picture of the same name, yet unseen thus far. “The Historian” was a gift from my Mum awhile ago and is one of those books that resides on your shelf that you tell yourself you have ‘plenty o’ time to read’. A ready fan of “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, who could bypass any new insight into the series? If the book “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” is even a smidgen of the heart that is stitched into the motion picture, I know I shall enjoy it! And, lastly more than one friend has insisted that at some point I surely need to read 84 Charing Cross Road ~ not merely for my love of letters but for my passion of books and bookshoppes!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comOn Letters and Correspondences:

I am quite sure that the vast majority of readers who stumble across this engaging novel, might not realise that there are many us who appreciate the exchangement of {postal} letters and correspondences ~ even in a day and age where the digitialization of our lives is commonplace! There is something to be said for the intimacy and raw honesty that spilts out of our hearts and minds, encasing themselves into thought-provoking text and carving out a niche of a conversation through words on a page,… to be readily cherished and read by the receiver of our treasured letter! Time eclipses and yields to distance, as our words carry our lives with them to parts elsewhere from here. We allow our hearts to remain open to friendship with those who carry-on different lifestyles, beliefs, customs, and traditions from us, as we endeavour to allow ourselves to broaden our understanding of the world at large.

Postal mail is long from being considered ‘dead’, although I am sure there is a small majority that feel that the postal system is rather ancient when there is a direct preference at hand to zip everything around by email, text, social media, or online video feeds. We live in a world that is constantly bending itself to the ‘instantaneous’ extraction of every facet of life. To draw backwards a bit from that existence, and take a careful look-see at where we stand in our lives, is a remarkable thing to contemplate. We don’t have to rush around like chickens lost on a farm, nor do we have to rush to dripple out every inch our waking worlds. There is something to be said for taking the time to pen thoughts upon paper, to slow down our mind, yield to our emotions, our hearts, our observations, and reach out across a distance to converse with someone else. To get to know them and see the world through their eyes.

In my sidebar of linkage, dear reader, you must have already noted that it’s bubbly and full of inter-connected topics and interests related to not only the bookish world by which is this blog’s main foray of interest lies, but also, linkage that explores the world of postal mail, typewriters, and other deviants that whet my fancy. If “Letters from Skye” made you even half curious about the possibilities that a friendship through letters can give to you, I suggest that you direct yourself to scrolling down until you see “The Society for the Ethical Treatment of Typewriters” badge — if you see it, you have only gone one category too far! Go back, and let yourself sink into the lively world of letters and correspondences! I have earmarked off the best of what I have found, and may they encourage you to pursue the ability to post someone new or old a letter they were not quite expecting but will gladly receive!

{SOURCES: Both the excerpt from Scribd and the book trailer by Windmill Books had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed these respective media portals to this post, and I thank them for this opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Buy links on Scribd excerpt are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2013.

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 3 July, 2013 by jorielov in Author Interview, Book Browse, Book Trailer, Debut Novel, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, First Impressions, Fly in the Ointment, Geographically Specific, Historical Fiction, Postal Mail | Letters & Correspondence, Scotland, Scribd, the Forties, the Nineteen Hundreds, The World Wars, Time Slip

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4 responses to “Journey to Skye: slip into Elspeth’s shoes, one letter at a time,… “Letters from Skye” by Jessica Brockmole an epistolary novel which stitches into your heart

    • Thank you, Scarlet!

      :) I had a heap of fun researching other books to read, writ in the same vein! Let me know if you try one, I will be doing the same throughout 2014!

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful review, I will definitely refer my friends to this one when I encourage them to read the book. This was an amazing book, and I must say I didn’t even struggle with the “letter” format of the book, it felt like finding a bundle of old letters hidden away in a cupboard and reading them. Will definitely frequent your blog more often

    • Hallo Elize!

      :) I am thankful you stopped by to read my thoughts on a book we both love! :) Thank you for appreciating my words and having the kindness of thought to share this post with your bookish friends! I look forward to seeing who stops by next! :) As this was my first novel of this kind, it took me a short bit to get into the flow of the letters, but once I did, I would reflect it was just as you mentioned yourself: nestled up with a lovely array of bundled letters! Look forward to your future visits! And, cheers to us both enjoying Ms. Brockmole’s debut!

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