Book Review: Letters to Eloise by Emily Williams

33977478Goodreads Description:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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/.

Five stars!

*Many thanks to author Emily Williams for providing a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

If you could have dinner with an author…

I’m borrowing from Angela at Books and Opinions again (thanks, Angela!).

Usually I dislike this kind of question – “if you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be?” – I’ve never had a good answer. But for this questions, I had an immediate answer, but I debated whether it was stalker-ish to post it. Clearly, I decided it’s not:

If I could have dinner with an author, it would be UK indie author Lizzie Steel.

Lizzie SteelA while back I reviewed Lizzie’s first book, Running Home, calling it one of the best fiction books I’ve ever read. Recently, I looked her up on Amazon so I could recommend the book to a friend and I discovered she wrote a second (phenomenal!) book, A Life More Complicated. Having loved Running Home, I bought and read A Life More Complicated immediately. I do plan to review the book more thoroughly, but here I will simply say that this book was amazing. She calls it gritty – and it is. It is gritty and gripping and painfully real.

Running Home Book CoverA Life More Complicated Book Cover

 

So, I would like to have dinner with Lizzie Steel because I find her writing compelling, and I am in awe of how she masterfully tells her stories from her desk in the playroom while battling crippling anxiety. As a mom-trying-to-be-an-editor, and suffering with my own history of post-partum mental illness, I identify with Lizzie and take encouragement from her bravery in putting herself out there – and succeeding splendidly!