|Simon & Schuster|
Escaping from an abusive relationship, Jess takes refuge in a seemingly deserted London mews cottage. She knows it’s wrong to be there, but in desperation she seeks oblivion from her own messy problems and attempts to makes sense of a life she knows is going nowhere. When she discovers a letter, ostensibly sent to the owner of the house, she again, knows it's wrong to pry into someone else's business, but the letter sounds so heartfelt and the sender is so very desperate to find the woman he left behind at the end of the Second World War. Before long Jess's life is intertwined with that of Dan Rosinski, a Second World War fighter pilot, who, amidst the terror and sorrow of wartime, loved and lost his darling girl and now, nearly seventy years later, time for Dan is running out and so much left unsaid, now needs to be spoken.
What then follows is a beautifully written dual time love story which enthrals from the very beginning. From the start, Jess and her story is realistic to the point of harshness as so much about her needs cherishing. However, step by step, she gets drawn into a story of forbidden love, and as she appreciates the memories of others, so her own life starts to take on more meaning. The wartime love affair between Dan Rosinski and his married lover Stella Thorne is so beautifully handled that the magic of stolen attraction is counterbalanced against the soberness of a loveless marriage, and yet, it is in the thrill of stolen moments and the delicious delight of soft kisses where the book really starts to tug at the heartstrings.
All too often with dual time narratives one time frame can outshine the other. However, that is not the case with Letters to the Lost as the transition between past and present is seamless. Such is the sense of time and place that whilst reading I truly lost sense of where I was and escaped into the past and lived through a story of love, loss and despair. I really started to care about Jess and wanted to be there to look after her and hoped that everything would turn out right for her. Equally, I fell a little in love with Dan, the gallant war hero whose time as a fighter pilot was made all the more poignant because he couldn’t be with the woman he loved.
Often books which are labelled as page turners turn out to be a damp squib. However, Letters to the Lost is a real page tuner in the true sense, as over five hundred pages flash by in the blink of an eye. It is one of those rare books that I really couldn't put down, and yet, perversely, at the same time I also didn't want the story to end and could have easily spent another five hundred pages in the company of Dan, Stella and the lovely Jess.
I had a feeling deep in my reviewers bones that this book was going to be special ..and believe me it lived up to my expectations. This is is a commendable debut novel and I can only hope that the author already has another book in the pipeline as I for one cannot wait to see what Iona Grey does next.
My thanks to Emma Harrow at Simon and Schuster for the chance to read this lovely novel in advance of its April Publication.