The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen #review @wordsofhelen @penguinukbooks

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by [Cullen, Helen]

I am delighted to be joining the blogtour on the publication day of this lovely book. Congratulations Helen Cullen on a wonderfully warm debut novel. Can we all just take a minute to admire that stunning cover? In a time when we rarely receive written letters any more, how many memories does that evoke? My eye was drawn in particular to the airmail envelope which reminded me of when I was much younger and used to write to my cousin in Canada. How excited I used to be when that thin, almost weightless, envelope dropped through the letterbox.

William Woolf works in the dead letters depot in East London. Here, all the letters and parcels which can’t be delivered are checked over by the staff who try their best to identify the recipients or senders. William works in the ‘supernatural’ department where letters to recipients who may prove trickier to track down end up – letters to God, to Santa, to film superheroes and so on. With his own marriage to Clare less than happy, he is intrigued by letters from a mystery writer called Winter simply addressed to ‘My Great Love’. 

Although William is a character I really took to heart, my favourite parts of the story were those where we learned about the contents of the lost letters. I loved all the little stories and dramas associated with them, sometimes stories that could only be guessed at from the one side we learn from the letters. And I loved William’s determination to reunite the letters with the intended recipients, sometimes personally delivering them and thereby uncovering a more complete story.

But my favourites, naturally, were Winter’s letters to ‘my great love’. They were so full of yearning and as romantic as any letter sent to a known recipient. Through a recent Twitter conversation I learned that the author herself narrated those parts of the audiobook and having heard her on Steve Wright’s Radio 2 show, I could then imagine those letters in her lovely Irish accent. (You can listen to that interview here but I’m not sure how long it is available for). I couldn’t decide whether I wanted William to find Winter and actually be her longed for love, or whether I wanted him and Clare to rediscover the great love they had once known, or whether indeed I hoped that Clare night be writing the letters to him. Well of course, I’m not going to tell you which if any of those scenarios was correct, you will need to read for yourself to find out. What I will say is that by the end, there was a resolution for all the characters.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf is a beautifully written book, full of memorable characters,  love, hopes and dreams. It is very moving and I found it to be a really compelling read. I am looking forward to reading whatever Helen Cullen writes next.

My thanks to Laura Nicol for my copy of this lovely book. It is published today in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats by Penguin UK. It will be available in your usual book retailer or you can order a copy online here: William Woolf

From the back of the book

Lost letters have only one hope for survival . . .

Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries. Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning.

Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.


‘Beautifully written and moving’ Nina George, bestselling author of The Little Paris Bookshop

With love, romance and frustrated hopes, this life affirming book will draw you in and keep you there’ Independent


About the author

Helen Cullen

Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London. She worked at RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) for seven years before moving to London in 2010. In the UK, Helen established a career as an events and engagement specialist before joining the Google UK marketing team in 2015.

The first draft of her debut novel THE LOST LETTERS OF WILLIAM WOOLF was written while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing programme under the mentorship of Michèle Roberts. Helen holds an M.A. Theatre Studies from UCD and is currently completing an M.A. English Literature at Brunel University.

‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ will be published this year, 2018 in UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Italy and Israel.

Helen is now writing full-time and working on her second novel.

Twitter: @wordsofhelen

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5 thoughts on “The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen #review @wordsofhelen @penguinukbooks

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