#Review #LettersToEloise #EmilyWilliams
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?
‘Receiving a hand written letter is something that always puts a smile on my face, no matter who the sender is.’ Flora Tierney.
Everyone loves getting a letter. There is nothing more personal, more thoughtful or more exciting than receiving a letter unexpectedly through the post which is overspills with news, feelings, thoughts and ramblings. Writing letters is something I have so little time for these days but as the main character of this novel points out, receiving one will always put a smile on your face.
So what could be more special than reading letters written by your mother to you while you were safely tucked away inside her tummy, smaller than a peanut? This is exactly what Flora sets out to do:
"I've never been one to write a diary, the daily goings on in people's lives are usually so mundane.....writing to you is an easier way of getting those thoughts out and one day you may find your mother's withering vaguely interesting or at least amusing, or neither, whatever suits you."
This is a lovely premise for a book. Each entry starts with an update of the number of weeks old the baby is and what is happening to it followed by a quip or short remark from Flora. The rest of the chapter is written as a letter to the bump which later becomes known as Eloise. It may sound a little saccharine or schmaltzy but actually Flora's letters are honest, open and much more about the complicated relationships she finds herself embroiled in with two men than fluffy musings about her impending parenthood.
Flora is a university student and her letters reflect her youth, inexperience, fears, anxieties and catalogue her attempts to navigate her way through the new and unexpected situation she finds herself in. In fact they give her someone to talk to and off load to.
Her best friend Brooke is fiercely protective and often quite overbearing as Flora becomes accustomed to life as a pregnant student. Brooke accompanies her to every appointment, scan and hospital visit -always well meaning but at times, even Flora feels she has become more like a controlling partner than a sister. But Brooke has her reasons. And this is only Flora's interpretation; the use of letters, like a diary, means we only see things from her perspective and only what she choose to share with us - or actually, with Eloise. Williams uses this deliberately and cleverly towards the end of the novel - but I can not reveal any more about that here without spoiling the book for everyone else......
Flora includes the letters from her father which are written to his future grandchild. The relationship between father and the daughter is very well illustrated. There is often not much said between them, but they always understand each other. It also reminds the reader how letters give people the space or opportunity to say what they can't articulate when face to face.
As well as these letters there are also the love notes left for Flora from Tate, the lecturer with whom she is involved. These again offer a contrast in communication and explore another way letters can be used. There is also a more literary feel to their communication as Tate quotes from an ancient tale which perhaps reminds us of the university setting of the novel but also prepares us for the contrast in which Flora and Tate view the relationship. Words can provide comfort, romance and kindness but they are also open to interpretation, reinterpretation and misinterpretation.
And then of course letters can remain unsent, get lost in the post, intercepted or left unread........
There is a time shift in the narrative too as we go forward and backwards as Flora tells Eloise more events before her conception, fills in details along the way and then also keeping us up to date with the present events. This was a tiny bit confusing at times as the time shift is slight but it wasn't difficult to keep track of the plot.
The characters are well drawn. There are plenty of issues raised by the novel and it would make a good reading group choice. There is love and happiness but there is also heartache and heartbreak. You will need some tissues at the end.
At a relatively short length of 293 pages, this is a quick read but one that will leave you with a few things to think about. Williams' manages the plot well and the style is very informal and easy to read. She delivers the clues and hints about the characters well so that there is a moment of revelation at the end which is satisfying for the reader.
Using the blurb from Goodreads I can only add:
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 was published in February 2017 and is available as an ebook and in paperback.
amazon link to buy Letters To Eloise
My thanks to Emily for a review copy of Letters To Eloise in return for an honest review.
MORE ABOUT EMILY WILLIAMS
Emily Williams lives by the seaside in West Sussex with her family and a menagerie of small pets. After graduating from Sussex University with a BA in Psychology, Emily trained as a primary school teacher and teaches in a local school. Letters to Eloise is her debut novel.
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