The Accidental Love Letter by Olivia Beirne
Publisher: Headline Review
Publishing Date: 17th October 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 288
Genre: Women’s Fiction
The funny, uplifting second novel from Olivia Beirne for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Katie Marsh, Zoë Folbigg and Marian Keyes.
What would you do if you received a love letter that wasn’t meant for you?
Bea used to feel confident, outgoing and fun, but she’s not sure where that person went.
Over the last few months, she’s found herself becoming reclusive and withdrawn. And despite living with her two best friends, she’s never felt lonelier. To make things worse, she’s become so dependent on her daily routine, she’s started to slip out of everyone else’s.
But when a mysterious battered envelope covered in stars lands on her doormat, Bea wonders if she could find the courage to open it.
It isn’t addressed to her, but it could be… if you squinted…
Bea Smyth works for a local newspaper writing adverts, even though she really wants to write something more important. She lives in a house that she shares with her two best friends, Emma and Priya. She lives her days according to lists and plans, which, of course, leaves little room for anything new and spontaneous. While Emma and Priya have interesting social lives that they share with girlfriend and boyfriend, Bea is quite the opposite – rather withdrawn and happy on her own but constantly worrying that she’s not good enough and feeling that it’s much easier just to agree with everyone than to put herself above others’ needs. One day a letter addressed to “B” arrives. Even though it’s not directed to her, Bea replies that she never intends to sent but it’s somehow posted to Nathan – and so Bea’s double life begins, life that is going to push her into uncomfortable situations but also brings her joy and new people.
I absolutely adored the way the author has written Bea. She felt so real and true to life, with all her angst and uncertainty, and seeing her being pushed out of her comfort zones made me want to give her a standing ovation. She simply feels like a real person, sitting next to you, chatting with you and it’s impossible not to like her. She is quite timid and hates confrontations, but it sounds quite well – known, no? And I wasn’t blaming Bea for being the way she was, because I could see where she was coming from, I was blaming people surrounding her for being so pushy and taking advantage of her. I couldn’t stand Priya who was supposed to be a friend but was so self – absorbed and selfish, expecting Bea to drop everything to be there for her when she needed her but not giving a second thought for Bea’s needs.
The unexpected letter was for Bea like a lifebelt. I really liked that she followed her instincts, and I admired her for this, knowing how much it must have cost her. The characters she has met forced life into her and, a bit unintentionally, showed her there is world outside, that there is much more to life. She almost immediately fell in love with the nursing home and the three remaining people there, Nina, Gus and Sylvie, and the carer Jakub. Why only three people, I hear you asking. Well, because the home was supposed to be closing in the New Year and other residents have already found different accommodations. At first Bea only sensed a story that she could sell to her boss Duncan but it quickly turned into a real friendship, into much more for Bea, into a thing that she started to care about so much.
I only had the feeling that the “accidental love letters” were, I don’t know, an afterthought? I was thinking they’re going to be a prominent part of the book, and I thought this part of the story is going to probably be light – hearted and funny, while it turned out that actually they added much more seriousness to the story. They were poignant and actually this what arose from those letters was much more serious in tone. Nevertheless, I was hoping for more when it comes to the letters, and for something different, but it doesn’t mean that I didn’t like them, oh no. And it wouldn’t be possible for Bea to change, to find herself without them, so it’s a win – win situation.
There was quite a number of threads to follow but they were all so very well written and they kept me alerted all the time. I also adored the way the author has captured Bea’s feelings and emotions, her anxiety, getting straight to the core of it, putting into words for us how it really feels. The scenes where Bea was calling her mum, leaving a message and asking to call her back soon made me realised what has happened and broke my heart. She was so lost, felt so alone, her roommates wanted to move out and on and now she was also supposed to lose the new friends from nursing home, where she felt needed, comfortable.
Altogether, it was a fairly light and warm read with a deeper side to it. An uplifting, funny and moving story, very well written, bringing the characters to life, a gentle, charming tale about life altogether, relationships, hope and coming out of your shell. Truly recommended!
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