Take a Letter Maria

by Marina M.

The inspiration for this post came from Dear Diary Day, which is September 22. As you saw from my list of books with lists, I enjoy a little something extra to move my stories along. In this case, it’s the journal entry or a letter (typically many) written to another character. Or even texting and emails. Since we’re so firmly entrenched in the digital age. Because it’s my list and I can do as I please. And that pleases me.

And it’s times like this I feel . . .

Epistolary novels are written in letter, diary, or journal entries (or the like) in their entirety. My titles are psuedo-epistolary novels. I’ve found that I’m way too fond of getting into the active mind of the characters to engage with a book consisting primarily of passive correspondence. Here, the journal entries, letters, emails, etc., are an addition that help progress the story. Even more enjoyable are those letters that never had a real recipient. And were never meant to be read by another person in the first place. And that started an anonymous correspondence that evolved into a bond of shared histories or emotions. Other times they’re just fun additions that break up the chapters for the reader.

The letter-writing process was enjoyable when I was younger. You know, on paper. With a fun pen. These days it’s like pulling teeth to get me to complete any hand-written correspondence. I think the immediacy of emails, texting and messaging has taken the anticipation out of it. So, I’ll take my enjoyment by reading other people’s fictional letters.

Address it to . . . ?

I have a fondness for the anonymous letter/unexpected reader trope. As you’ll see in most of the titles I’m highlighting below.

“Mink” and “Alex” in Jenn Bennett’s book Alex, Approximately are actually Bailey and Porter. But they don’t know it. And their first day working together at a local museum is a disaster. Bailey sets out (on her cool moped!), using their anonymous emails from the classic movie forum they’re in, to piece together who her secret pen pal really is. And as their enemistry turns to chemistry Bailey is finding it hard to choose between “Alex” and Porter.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer is another anonymous letter tale. Juliet has a habit of writing letters to her famous photojournalist mom. And that habit continues even after her death. Declan, who is fulfilling a community service requirement after a drunk driving incident, is working as part of the maintenance crew where Juliet’s mother is buried. Running across one of those letters Declan pens a brief response. That elicits a rebuttal from Juliet and starts a conversation between two anonymous strangers and the hurts and demons they are fighting.

The one story in this short list that doesn’t contain anonymity on the letter-writers has a pretty unique premise of its own. My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger is the story of three high school freshmen writing an essay about their, well, most excellent year. They, and many of their friends and family members, have correspondence included that move the story along.

And, finally, When A Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare takes the anonymous letter writing to a whole new level. Madeline Gracechurch never wanted to enter London society. To keep herself out of the social crush she invented a suitor. And then she killed him off in a military battle. Indeed, all went well until that imaginary suitor showed up. With her letters in hand. Surprise?!?

Do you have a favorite fictional letter-writer or journal-keeper?

View the whole list

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2 responses to “Take a Letter Maria”

  1. Lindsey A. says:

    I loved the way letter writing was used in When a Scot Ties the Knot! I probably would have done the same thing if I were in her position back then. Studying lobsters sounds so much more interesting than dealing with the Ton.

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