The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen
Publishing Date: 2nd May 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 416
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
SHORTLISTED FOR NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR, IRISH BOOK AWARDS
‘If you liked Harold Fry and Me Before You, you will love Cullen’s nostalgic debut. This life-affirming book will draw you in and keep you there’ Independent
‘Delightful’ Sunday Times
‘Deeply moving’ Irish Times
‘I found myself totally transported into William’s poignant and beguiling world of lost opportunities and love’ A. J. Pearce, author of Sunday Times bestseller Dear Mrs Bird
Inside East London’s Dead Letters Depot, William Woolf unites lost mail with its intended recipient. White mice, a miniature grandfather clock and a full suit of armour are among the more unusual items lost then found thanks to William’s detective work.
But when he discovers a series of letters addressed only to ‘My Great Love’, everything changes. Written by Winter to a soulmate she hasn’t yet met, her heartfelt words stir William in ways he has long forgotten. Could they be destined for him? But what about his troubled marriage?
William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve the mystery of his own heart.
Let’s start with telling you that I loved the idea of the book – there is hope for letters that went missing or with unclear destination if they find their way to East London’s Dead Letters Depot, where thirty letter detectives work hard, trying to put together whatever clues they can find to reunite the letters with their recipients. William Woolf is one of those detectives. Since 1979, after inheriting the position from his uncle, he’s been working in the depot and he is the right man at the right place. He has his own way of choosing the letters, and one day he finds a midnight blue envelope addressed to “My Great Love”. He’s intrigued. The letters are written by a woman to a man she has never met but feels he’s her soul mate and she hopes to meet him one day. William is fascinated and starts to think they are meant for him, and so he sets his mind on finding this woman. Only he doesn’t take into consideration that his marriage to Claire already is like walking on thin ice. After a great beginning, it looks like they are both living separate lives.
The characters were really well drawn and full of personality. They were full of flaws actually, and gradually and slowly we are made aware of the problems that lie between them. William and Claire simply stopped to communicate and the result is that their marriage became stale and unhappy. William actually felt better among his letters – this is my personal feeling, and while his compassion, dedication and interest were directed towards the letters, his own marriage, real life is suffering. He was more of a loner, and a dreamer in my opinion, feeling much more comfortable with his letters than in his real life.
William was really passionate about his job, and this passion has started already when he was a young boy, filling his notebook with stories from the letters, and some of those stories became a kind of obsession to him, I think we can say this. He doesn’t see them as normal letters but he sees the story behind them, he sees people that send them and who are waiting to receive them. His personal favourites were the one categorized as Supernatural Division, it means letters addressed to God, mythic and mystics.
There were some gorgeous stories contained in those lost letters. They were funny, they were personal, they were heart – breaking and heart – melting. Some were hilarious, some were poignant but they were for sure the strongest part of the book. The book also told us about William and Clare’s relationship, about their highs and lows but I must admit that I had a feeling that these are the letters that are the real main storyline. They were stories of love, grief, loss and hope, beautifully capturing human nature and relationships, feelings and emotions.
It was a story about love that went wrong, about hope, lost communication, disappointment, second chances and a great deal more. It was rather a sad read, realistic and poignant. I had a feeling that the ending is a bit too rushed, especially compared to the rest of the book that was rather moderate in pace, and to be totally honest, I’m still not sure how I feel about it. The author shows great insight into all areas that she writes about, let it be the letters, the stories, the relationships, exploring ups and downs, highs and lows of life and reality. The writing style is lyrical and eloquent but still easy to follow. Altogether, I enjoyed “The Lost Letters of William Woolf”, it was a read with a difference and I hope to read more from the author soon.
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