Receiving a hand written letter is something that always puts a smile on my face, no matter who the sender is.’ Flora Tierney.
When post-graduate student Flora falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year studies she hits a huge predicament; continue a recent affair with her handsome but mysterious lecturer who dazzles her with love letters taken from the ancient tale of ‘Abelard and Heloise’, or chase after the past with her estranged first love?
But will either man be there to support her during the turmoil ahead?
‘Banish me, therefore, for ever from your heart’, Abelard to Heloise.
Letters to Eloise is the heart wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams; a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child.
Letters to Eloise is, hands-down, one of the best books I’ve read all year. Before rereading the Goodreads description I quoted above, I was thinking of how to describe the book and “heart-wrenching” was the first thing that came to mind. It was an intensely emotional read for me, I think because I have the great blessing of being a mother. In addition to the emotion, there are a few things that really struck me about the book:
- Flora (notwithstanding her out-of-wedlock pregnancy) reminds me a great deal of St. Gianna Beretta Molla in her selfless giving on behalf of her child. The story is a true testament to the value and humanity of the unborn and the power of the bond a mother develops with the child growing in her womb. I don’t think Flora and I would have been friends, and that usually makes it hard for me to love a heroine, but in this case my ability to identify with Flora in her journey as a mother overshadowed everything else.
- The story is expertly set in the mid-1990s. So many aspects of the story just wouldn’t work in today’s world of instant communication. No cell phones, no text messaging, limited Internet usage – even reliance on the actual brick-and-mortar campus library! I marvel at the skill Williams demonstrates in having chosen the timing and format for the book and then in weaving the story together so believably. Truly brilliant!
- In contrast to some other reviewers, I was not surprised by the ending. HOWEVER – that did not in any way detract from my enjoyment of the book, and I don’t think the story was “predictable” in the ordinary sense of the word. Instead, I think it was truly human. Because we read from Flora’s point of view, her faults are not glossed over; she is aware of her mistakes and forgiving of others’, and we have the opportunity to watch her grow as a person.
All in all, this book was amazing. I highly recommend this one AND Emily’s next book, Rafferty Lincoln Loves…, which I had the great privilege to proofread for her. Check her out at http://emilywilliamsauthor.blogspot.com/.
*Many thanks to author Emily Williams for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.