The Girl in the Letter is another of the books I picked up at the Headline New Voices event in January. My friend Sandra at Beauty Balm blog had read it in ebook last year and said she was sure I would really enjoy it and she was right.
The story begins with a rather dramatic prologue. We read a letter from Ivy to a little girl Elvira, encouraging her to escape and promising to create a distraction so she can get away. Ivy had been sent to a mother and baby home in the 1950s after becoming pregnant and being abandoned by her lover. In the present day, journalist Sam comes across letters from Ivy to her love begging him to come for her and their child. She believes these letters were found in antique furniture her late grandfather had bought. She is very moved by the letters and becomes determined to find out who ‘the girl in the letter’ was and what happened to her.
I love a story which moves between different time periods and where you begin to guess at the connections between the stories a little at a time. In this book, although I began to suspect the connections between the characters, I was taken by surprise so many times by the author. My heart just went out to Ivy and the situation she found herself in. She seemed to get absolutely no comfort or support from anyone and certainly not from any of the nuns who ran St Margaret’s House. (Please someone tell me that not all nuns were as awful as those we often read about in books set in mother and baby homes?). She was turned away and betrayed by so many people who should have loved her. And yet for all her misfortune, she still was compassionate enough herself to try to help others.
I thought the pacing in this story was very cleverly done. In the present day, Sam is racing against time to find out what happened at the mother and baby home before it is knocked down and this gave a real sense of urgency to these chapters. By contrast, the chapters in the past seemed more slowly paced and gave a real sense of how long and hopeless the days were for Ivy in the home. The present day story was full of danger and tension particularly as you begin to realise just how the characters are connected. The story became a lot more sinister than I expected.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl in the Letter which is an excellent debut novel. As well as being intriguing, it is a book which made me think and was emotional to read at times too. It is full of strong characters, some of whom you will like but many of whom you will detest. Although this home and the characters are fictional, it is so poignant to know that for many women, the situations depicted were reality. I am looking forward to reading the author’s second novel, The Lost Child, later this year.
My thanks to the publishers Headline for my review copy of this book. The Girl in the Letter is available now in ebook and will be published on 4th April in paperback. It will be available to buy or order from your usual book retailer or you can order a copy online here: The Girl in the Letter
From the back of the book
A heartbreaking letter. A girl locked away. A mystery to be solved.
1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave.
Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret’s. Before it is too late.
Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret’s set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost for ever…
Read her letter. Remember her story…
About the author
I’ve wanted to be an author since my mum, Penny Vincenzi, got her first book deal when I was 13. We’d spend hours walking and talking about the worlds her characters inhabited and unpicking any plot dead ends she’d found herself in. I absolutely loved it – this is what I wanted to do!
Fast forward 30 years and I’ve discovered it’s a great deal harder than my mother made it look! But still, here I am.
After graduating I wrote scripts and had two episodes of BBC Doctors commissioned but didn’t like all the input from Script Editors and Producers. So, while I worked in various PA jobs I decided to go for it and just kept learning as much as I could until I sold my debut novel, The Girl in the Letter, which is published on eBook on 1st August 2018 and paperback in April 2019. I really hope you enjoy it, and my follow-up novel which I’m busy researching now!
I live in Sussex with my husband Steve and our two beautiful girls, Grace and Eleanor.
If you’d like to get in touch please visit me on Twitter @EmilyGunnis, Instagram @emilygunnis and Facebook @emilygunnisauthor.
And if you do read my book, I’d love to know what you think.