Jessica Brockmole’s debut novel, Letters from Skye, spans two continents and encompasses both of the world wars, which, as one might expect, has a profound effect upon both of her protagonists. The Times calls the novel ‘… an enchanting love story… It is beautifully imagined’.
Brockmole’s intention here is to demonstrate ‘the transformative power of a letter – the letter that shouldn’t have been sent, the letter that is never sent and the letter the reader will keep forever’. The correspondence within the pages of epistolary Letters from Skye is between a young Scottish poet, Elspeth Dunn, and a ‘fan’ of hers from Illinois, named David – Davey – Graham. Their letters begin in 1912. As one might expect, along the line the pair rather predictably begin to have feelings for one another, but Brockmole has handled this part of their relationship so carefully that she manages to preserve some refreshing originality within their predictament.
The voices which Brockmore has crafted for both of her protagonists are distinctive, and there is a definite stylistic difference between the American male and Scottish female. Fitting words which relate to their dialects and upbringings have been used throughout the letters of each, which help to build a sense of place and time. Brockmole adds to this by the way in which she touches upon a lot of historical events to ground her novel – the wars, of course, being the main contribution. So much care and thought has been put into every letter, however short, and we learn such a lot about the characters – and those who fill their lives, too – in consequence. The entirety of Letters from Skye has been well crafted, and the world of Elspeth and Davey feels three-dimensional.
Letters from Skye spans several decades, and the areas in which the letters are written shift with the years and situations of the characters. As well as discussing the importance of correspondence, Brockmole thoughtfully examines just how important relationships can be, and how they are able to be built up in many different ways. The format in which she does this works very well indeed. I am very much looking forward to seeing which characters and worlds next leap from Brockmore’s pen.