Monday 23 March 2015

Letters To The Lost by Iona Grey

1943, in the ruins of Blitzed London...

Stella Thorne and Dan Rosinski meet by chance and fall in love by accident. Theirs is a reluctant, unstoppable affair in which all the odds are stacked against them: she is newly married, and he is an American bomber pilot whose chance of survival is just one in five...

He promised to love her forever

Sixty years later Dan makes one final attempt to find the girl he has never forgotten, and sends a letter to the house where they shared a brief yet perfect happiness. But Stella has gone, and the letter is opened by Jess, a young girl hiding from problems of her own. And as Jess reads Dan's words, she is captivated by the story of a love affair that burned so bright and dimmed too soon. Can she help Dan find Stella before it is too late?

Now forever is finally running out.

Published in paperback by Simon & Schuster on 23 April 2015, Letters to the Lost is Iona Grey's debut novel.

Letters to the Lost is a book that can be described in terms that are often overused and often felt to be clich├ęd, please forgive me when I tell you that this novel really is a book that you will struggle to put down, a book that is a complete and utter pager-turner and a book that the reader will lose themselves in completely. It is a story that spans sixty years, and is over 500 pages long, but the pages fly by so quickly as the story captivates the reader, you will become totally engrossed.

Letters to the Lost is a love story, it is romantic to the core, but it is also a story of struggle, of pain, of lost opportunities and of heartbreak. Iona Grey is a truly gifted writer, her ability to create this story as her debut is incredible. Her characters are startlingly realistic, and her sense of place and era is spot on - transporting the reader to England during World War II, and then whisking them back to the same London back streets, but in the modern day.

The story is told as a dual time narrative. The reader meets Jess first, she's on the run from an abusive relationship, with little money and only the clothes that she stands up in. Jess has no family to turn to. She takes refuge in an almost derelict cottage, part of a mews terrace, hidden from the busy streets of London. It is in this empty and neglected house that Jess discovers the story of Stella and Dan; war-time lovers whose story does not have a happy ending.

A letter arrives from Dan, now ninety-years-old and in ill-health. Dan has thought about his lost love for the past sixty years and wants nothing more than to track her down before his time comes. When Jess discovers an old shoe box filled with the letters that Dan wrote during the war, she becomes determined that she must help him to find Stella.

Iona Grey slips back and forth from Jess's modern story to the wartime romance of Dan and Stella with ease. There are parallels between Stella and Jess; their poor background, their lack of family and their history of abusive relationships tie them together. Jess also recognises a kindred spirit of sorts in Will - a college drop-out, a disappointment to his wealthy family, but a kind and considerate man, and between them they set out to discover just what happened to Stella at the end of the war.

There are many issues dealt with within Letters to the Lost. The difficulties of life during the war time years, the difference between the US soldiers and the British men, the inequalities that women faced, the prejudices directed towards some people and the stigma attached to invisible illness that were not understood. Iona Grey handles each of these with grace and elegance, her story telling skills are very impressive, she has written a novel that is quite stunning and very memorable.

Fans of Lucinda Riley will adore this book, Letters to the Lost is a sweeping, majestic story, I highly recommend this one.

My thanks to Emma from Simon & Schuster who sent my copy for review.  Letters to the Lost is also one of the chosen books for the Curtis Brown Book Group this month.

Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. 

She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters. 

She tweets @iona_grey.

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  1. What a lovely review. I too adored this book and I'm really looking forward to the CB Book Club discussion.

  2. This sounds like something I'd love. Thanks for such a great review. Now on the wishlist!