Letters from Skye

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Ok, I’ll be honest. I chose this book solely because it takes place partly in Scotland and I’ve been feeling nostalgic (where did that year and a half go?). My current “home” is located a 30 minute drive from Bozeman, MT…consequently I spend a lot of time in the car. So I was browsing the shelves of my local library and I found myself in the audiobook section. I thought what the heck, may as well utilize that car time. And so, I picked up Letters from Skye.

Scottish Accents? Yes, please.

Yes, it’s a sappy romance story, but at least it’s a sappy romance story read by people with Scottish accents. Although I did question the legitimacy of their accents at some points throughout considering one of the main characters pronounced “Gaelic” the Irish way… Regardless, it fulfilled my need for a continued connection to the country I just spent 18 months in.

Oh, did I mention it’s an epistolary novel?

Yeah. This book is told through a series of letters. The storyline: Elspeth, a young Scottish poet who has never left her home on the Isle of Skye receives a letter from David, an American fanboy. Yep, a fanboy. In 1914. They keep up a correspondence that, despite the fact that she’s married, quickly turns into love (I didn’t say it was realistic…). Meanwhile, there’s a secondary plot happening simultaneously — 20-ish years later, Elspeth’s daughter Margaret writes to her love Paul, who has left her to fight in WWII. Margaret doesn’t know who her father is or where she came from. The mystery unfolds as we get deeper into the novel.

Lacking Depth

Despite a good start, the book began to taper off by the middle. Elspeth starts off as a strong, opinionated woman who is sure of herself and her place in the world. She continues this way until she and Davy admit their love to one another and then she just becomes a sappy pathetic person completely shackled by her love for and dependence on this man she’s never even met. *Sigh* What happened to all that feminist talk earlier on, Elspeth? I know it’s the early 1900s, but come. on. Not to mention, the letters themselves feel too modern in their structure and there’s little differentiation in voice from one character to the next (maybe this is a little less evident in the audiobook because there are actually different people reading each character).

I wonder if the epistolary form is perhaps limiting the scope of this novel. The restrictions imposed by telling the stories through letters are great: very little description, no real omniscient impartial voice, a stilted feeling from characters retelling each other actions they took when they were together.

Overall, Letters… was a bit of a disappointment

But at least there were Scottish accents! …Although I’m not entirely convinced a woman who’s never left Skye in the early 1900s would speak English. One of the reviewers on Goodreads had it right: it’s better to just look at pictures of Skye than to read this book.

My rating: 3/5 stars (an extra half star for the audiobook version)