Letters in Literature: Our Top Five

This month we sobbed over Iona Grey’s romantic Letters to the Lost in which we are consumed by stunning letters which prove to be one of the most powerful and emotive ways to deliver a message of love, bringing together not one, but two couples. This got us discussing our favourite letters in literature, both of love and otherwise and after many many suggestions of titles, we managed to condense it down to a small, but prevailing five. If we’ve missed off what you feel is an obvious choice, do let us know…

p.s i love you1. P.S I love you by Cecelia Ahern

Cecelia’s is our representative from the romance genre – a tough call with The Notebook in contention. A heart wrenching book and beautiful film, the letters in P.S I love you are unique in the fact that they are not reciprocal, written in advance of his death by Gerry: the husband who even after death finds a way of being there for his wife. You wouldn’t expect the very person who left you, to be the one to help you through your grief but his letters are full of life, hope and encouragement, timed to perfection. Rather than being letters of adoration, they’re letters of demand, making Holly get up and live her life without him, a selfless example of love. The adorable ‘P.S I love you’ on each letter is Gerry’s way of making his love eternal; though his letters have to end, his love doesn’t. What should be a depressing and miserable read, is warming and uplifting as the letters bring Gerry briefly back to Holly and to us.

2. Atonement by Ian McEwanatonement

Instead of bringing two people together, here we see letters tear two people apart. Briony’s misunderstanding and the raw love and passion between Cecilia and Robbie makes us only hope for something so powerful, though perhaps less of a tragic ending. Joe Wright’s incredible adaptation epitomises the power of Robbie’s letter, with the haunting sound of typing, significant opera sequence as he writes and creative cinematography as the letter is in Briony’s fateful hands. Robbie’s letter, however brief and perhaps arguably not of love, is both the beginning and end of his and Cecilia’s brief but intense love. McEwan is an expert at weaving his words so perfectly, he deceives us all, believing until the final pages that perhaps the two lovers just quite make it. His manipulation of the truth and masterful creation of Briony makes for one of his most interesting and emotive novels.

perks3. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Perhaps the first book of its kind to really come on the scene and make the impact it did, Chbosky’s coming of age novel reaches out to every young adult struggling with the difficult task of growing up. Charlie, a bright but troubled teen, writes to no one and everyone in this ground breaking book, offering solace to so many readers who can relate to his life. Despite Emma Watson’s questionable American accent, the film was nearly as emotional as the novel but somehow didn’t quite grasp the intimacy that comes with the form of letter writing.

 

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austenpride and prejudice

The letter in Jane Austen’s masterpiece is arguably the turning point of the novel: Darcy’s letter reveals not only his true feelings for Elizabeth but also the true nature of Wickham. His letter of love is one that all men wish they could write and all women are desperate to receive, it is a quintessential love letter: full of devotion and the moment you cross that line from hate to love, proving the letter to be the most romantic forms of expression. Both Elizabeth and the reader can’t help but fall head over heels for Darcy, who seems to be the man that everyone is compared to, and we rather like the way Colin Firth brings the iconic scene to life.

 

all the bright places5. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

A young adult, contemporary twist on the epistolary novel. Finch and Violet’s exchanges aren’t through letters, but texts and messages on social media. In the last days of Finch’s life, he leaves her messages and post-its, clues of his whereabouts, his final ‘letters’ to her. Instead of leaving letters after death, he leaves her a map and at each stop, he leaves her signs and presents, immortalising them together as he takes her through his last moments. At the last stop on his map, he leaves her a letter with the lyrics to the song he used to sing for her. Simply one of the most beautiful, tragic books this year, their connection is on a level only the two of them can understand, their own form of love letters that saves Violet and brings Finch the only moments of joy he experienced.

Iona Grey’s Letters to the Lost is one of our March books of the month, published by Simon & Schuster on 23rd April.

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