Letters from the Past by Erica James
Publishing Date: 16th April 2020
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 400
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
| Paperback (out on 09.06.2020)
A sweeping story of family, love and betrayal set in a quintessential Suffolk village, from Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James
With its winding high street lined with a greengrocers, post office, pub and church, Melstead St Mary is the perfect English village. Neighbours look out for neighbours, and few things trouble the serene surface of the community.
But when residents start to receive anonymous letters containing secret information about their pasts – secrets that no one else is meant to know – life in Melstead St Mary is about to change, possibly forever…
“Letters from the Past” opens with some of the women living in Melstead St Mead receiving a series of awful poison pen letters. Evelyn’s, who’s just celebrating her 20th marriage anniversary to Kit, brings doubt on her actions from the past. Hope’s, who belongs to the family but feels like an outsider, drives her to the point of despair. Florence’s brings doubt to her marriage and makes her feel horrified by the words. Julia’s, who’s under the command of her husband, sees her letters as a punishment for something wrong that she’s probably has done in the past. And as all of them have secrets they’re not proud of, those letters bring back the fears. It’s up to Romily, the matriarch of the family, to try to work out who is sending those letters and why.
I wasn’t aware that this book is a sequel to “Coming Home to Island House”, and as never, not for a single moment during reading this story did it come to my mind that perhaps there have been something before, my verdict is yes, you can read it as a stand – alone, as the author has truly brilliantly told the characters’ background stories, and I really didn’t have a feeling that I may be missing on something, so imagine my surprise when after finishing this book I’ve discovered there is more! And this is the a bonus – you can as soon as possible read “Coming Home to Island House”, so it’s a win – win, no?
There are many, many characters in the book, and I really mean many. Somewhere around the middle I started to recognise who is who and to whom they belong, but to be absolutely honest with you, there were some characters that I had no idea who they are till the end of the book. Maybe an introduction at the beginning would be an idea? To keep them all under control? This, however, didn’t spoil my joy in reading, yes, I needed a moment to think back to who they are but other than that, it worked.
Because of the number of characters, there are many storylines running through the book and hats off to the author for keeping them all so clear. But the huge cast of characters is actually also a strength of this novel that is told from multiple points of view and it was absolutely gripping to hear the thoughts through different voices. Those are characters that you quickly grow very fond of, that you start to love and hate, trust and distrust, that will surprise you and you’ll be engaged in their lives. The Devereux family is extensive and each member comes with their own background, stories and friends and the author has managed to develop all of them in the most intriguing way, making them breathing, living characters whose stories broke my heart and shocked me.
The poison pen letters are a backbone of the story, as everything started with them this time, and I, probably just like the characters receiving them, was afraid that any moment another one can arrive. I had so many theories about who might have been sending them but – needles to say – I didn’t guess who is sending them, and I must admit the big reveal truly surprised me, but it was also so logical and it explained many things.
As the story jumps between 1942 and 1962, there are also some elements of historical fiction that added so much colour to this book and that I, personally, truly enjoyed. In the end the author has managed to weave all the strands of the story seamlessly together without making them feel too forced or too sentimental.
I think this might be Erica James’s best book yet. I was deeply invested in the characters’ lives and lost myself in everything that was unfolding before my eyes. It is full of secrets, lies, mysteries, intrigues and shocking events that swept me away to Suffolk, London and Palm Springs. Erica James is a wonderful storyteller, her words have magic in them and you’ll be quickly enchanted and transported into the characters’ worlds. “Letters from the Past” is a book exploring the impact of the past, its strength to affect your present life, and it was so beautifully and realistically written that there were moments that I had my heart in my mouth. A truly brilliant read that I highly recommend.
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