Book Review

The Letter by Kathryn Hughes – Book Review

The Letter by Kathryn Hughes
ISBN: 978-1-4722-2995-3

Published: 8th October 2015 by Headline
Available to buy on Amazon in multiple formats (e-book/paperback).

‘Discover the novel that has broken a thousand hearts…
Tina Craig works all the hours she can and volunteers in a charity shop to avoid her unhappy home. Going through the pockets of a second-hand suit, she comes across an old letter, the envelope firmly sealed and un-franked. Tina opens the letter and reads it – a decision that will alter the course of her life forever.

Billy Stirling knows he has been a fool, but he hopes he can put things right. On 4th September 1939 he sits down to write the letter he hopes will change his future. It does…in more ways than he can imagine.’

This book chose me. For those who live and breathe books, I’m sure you can relate to the moment a book cover stands out to you. Even though many other books may catch your eye, there is always one you cannot forget. The chosen book.
The blurb will leave you wondering right away. Why does Tina Craig have an unhappy home? What was so life changing in that letter? I had high expectations for Kathryn Hughes debut novel, and all my fingers were crossed that I wasn’t going to be disappointed…..
‘The Letter’ is a story that goes through many twists and turns and heart breaking moments. Tina Craig is one of the main characters whose life you follow. She lives with her alcoholic husband and unfortunately has to walk on egg shells because of his explosive behaviours. The charity shop Tina works in is her only means of escape…somewhere she can breath without wondering if she’s making too much noise. She is trapped in her situation. A situation that leaves her wondering what will happen, when it will happen…
Although, thanks to the letter she finds, her thoughts are taken up by going back in time. Tina gives herself the challenge of finding the history of the letter, and it sends her searching. But will she find anything, or anyone?
In chapter four you will find yourself getting introduced to more of the main characters who’s lives you will follow too, but from the past. Billy Stirling was a young jack the lad that had the girls wrapped around his little finger, especially Chrissie. Both Billy’s and Chrissie’s lives were already hard because of their upbringings, but because of one rainy night, their lives become a whole lot harder.
The story goes between 1939 (the year of the letter) and 1973 (Tina’s present day). Usually time swapping in a book can be quite confusing, however, it is a vital part of this story because it holds most of the important events leading to the present. In 1939, it wasn’t just Billy’s and Chrissie’s lives that changed, lives of their loved ones also changed because of their actions. They all loved, and they all lost. Half way through the book, personally, had me sitting with my mouth open and shocked at the events that were unfolding before my very eyes. Kathryn Hughes description of events will leave you wanting to keep hold of the book until the very end because of how real the story becomes. I certainly found that happening.
Once again the story is back in 1973, now this is where Kathryn Hughes’ writing shines even more. Tina is faced with more horrendous problems, with one of those being extremely heart wrenching. I’m not embarrassed to say that I cried, a lot. The raw emotion that is in those black words in front of you is gripping. Part of you will want to put it down because of that reason, but the book is so good you know you will regret it if you didn’t finish it. I know that is certainly how I felt when I was reading it! After Tina takes some time out for herself, her letter mission resumes, and she finds herself involved deeper in the situation than what she originally thought. A mission she sees through right until the end, but the outcome will leave you guessing right the way through.
After reading Kathryn Hughes debut novel, my face was tear – stained and I thought ‘wow’. The story had me hooked from the very beginning, even the switching between times was easy to follow which sometimes it isn’t. I thought the book was an incredible read, so raw, historic and extremely emotional. The events that were written opened my eyes to what may have happened in the past, some of which were extremely shocking yet very well describe. Usually when reading books I hope I can’t predict what will happen, I want to read a book that has me guessing all the way through. This book does exactly that. It’s unpredictable, you’re in for plenty of shocks, emotion, arguments, and true love.  I saw the characters grow (in my mind), like I was following them on their journey and some of the scenarios were happening to me. It is that raw.  Kathryn Hughes, what an outstanding way to debut. Such a powerful read and I cannot wait to see what you have in store for the next book. I most certainly was not disappointed.


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