Letters from Skye

Letters from Skye

Жанры: Исторические любовные романы Эпистолярная проза

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A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.

March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence--sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets--their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.

June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.

Jessica Brockmole
LETTERS FROM SKYE

Letters from Skye

Chapter One

Elspeth

Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A.

March 5, 1912

Dear Madam,

I hope you won’t think me forward, but I wanted to write to express my admiration for your book, From an Eagle’s Aerie. I’ll admit, I’m not usually a guy for poetry. More often, I can be found with a dog-eared copy of Huck Finn or something else involving mortal peril and escape. But something in your poems touched me more than anything has in years.

I’ve been in the hospital, and your little book cheered me better than the nurses. Especially the nurse with the mustache like my uncle Phil’s. She’s also touched me more than anything has in years, though in a much less exciting way. Generally I’m pestering the doctors to let me up and about so I can go back to my plotting. Just last week I painted the dean’s horse blue, and I had hoped to bestow the same on his terrier. But with your book in hand, I’m content to stay as long as they keep bringing the orange Jell-O.

Most of your poems are about tramping down life’s fears and climbing that next peak. As you can probably guess, there are few things that shake my nerves (apart from my hirsute nurse and her persistent thermometer). But writing a letter, uninvited, to a published author such as yourself—this feels by far my most daring act.

I am sending this letter to your publisher in London and will cross my fingers that it finds its way to you. And if I can ever repay you for your inspiring poetry—by painting a horse, for example—you only have to say the word.

With much admiration, David Graham

Isle of Skye

25 March 1912

Dear Mr. Graham,

You should have seen the stir in our tiny post office, everyone gathered to watch me read my first letter from a “fan,” as you Americans would say. I think the poor souls thought no one outside our island had ever laid eyes on my poetry. I don’t know which was more thrilling to them—that someone had indeed read one of my books or that the someone was an American. You’re all outlaws and cowboys, aren’t you?

I myself admit to some surprise that my humble little works have fled as far as America. From an Eagle’s Aerie is one of my more recent books, and I wouldn’t have thought it had time to wing across the ocean yet. However you’ve acquired it, I’m just glad to know I’m not the only one who’s read the blasted thing.

In gratitude, Elspeth Dunn

Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A.

April 10, 1912

Dear Miss Dunn,

I don’t know which made me giddier—to hear that From an Eagle’s Aerie was among your “most recent books” or to get a response at all from such an esteemed poet. Surely you’re too busy counting meter or compiling a list of scintillating synonyms (brilliant, sparkling, dazzling synonyms). Me, I spend my days robbing banks with the James Gang and the other outlaws and cowboys.

I was sent your book by a friend of mine who is up at Oxford. To my shock and dismay, I have not seen your works in print here in the United States. Even a thorough search of my university library turned up nothing. Now that I know you have others lurking on the bookstore shelves, I will have to appeal to my pal to send more.

I was astonished to read that mine was your first “fan” letter. I was sure it would be just one in a stack, which is why I went to such pains to make it fascinating and witty. Perhaps other readers haven’t been as bold (or perhaps as impulsive?) as I.

Regards, David Graham

P.S. Wherever is the Isle of Skye?

Isle of Skye

1 May 1912

Mr. Graham,

You don’t know where my lovely isle is? Ridiculous! That would be like me saying I’ve never heard of Urbana, Illinois.

My isle is off the northwest coast of Scotland. A wild, pagan, green place of such beauty that I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Enclosed is a picture of Peinchorran, where I live, with my cottage nestled between the hills around the loch. I’ll have you know that, in order to draw this for you, I had to hike around the loch, trudge up the sheep path on the opposite hill, and find a patch of grass not covered by heather or sheep excreta. I’ll expect you to do likewise when you send me a picture of Urbana, Illinois.

Do you lecture in Urbana? Study? I’m afraid I don’t know what it is that Americans do at university.

Elspeth Dunn

P.S. By the way, it’s “Mrs. Dunn.”

Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A.

June 17, 1912

Dear Mrs. Dunn (please excuse my presumption!),

You draw as well as write such magnificent poetry? The picture you sent is sublime. Is there nothing you can’t do?

As I can’t draw worth a dime, I’m sending a few picture postcards instead. One is the auditorium at the university; the second is the tower on the library building. Not bad, huh? Illinois is probably as different from the Isle of Skye as a place could be. Not a mountain in sight. Once I leave campus, just corn as far as the eye can see.

I suppose I do what any collegiate American does: study, eat too much pie, torment the dean and his horse. I’m finishing up my studies in natural sciences. My father hopes I’ll enter medical school and join him in his practice one day. I’m not as certain about my future as he seems to be. For now, I’m just trying to make it through my last year of college with my sanity intact!

David Graham

Isle of Skye

11 July 1912

Mr. Graham,

“Is there nothing you can’t do?” you ask. Well, I can’t dance. Or tan leather. Or make barrels or shoot a harpoon. And I’m not particularly good at cooking. Can you believe I burned soup the other day? But I can sing fairly well, shoot a straight shot from a rifle, play the cornet (can’t we all?), and I’m something of an amateur geologist. And, although I couldn’t cook a decent roast lamb if my life depended on it, I make a marvellous Christmas pudding.

Forgive my frankness, but why devote all of your time (and sanity) towards an area of study that doesn’t grip your very soul? If I had had a chance to go to university, I wouldn’t have spent even a moment on a subject that didn’t interest me.

I should love to think I would’ve spent my university days reading poetry, as there’s no better way to pass the time, but after so many years masquerading as a “real poet,” there likely isn’t much a professor could teach me now.

No, as unladylike as it sounds, I would have studied geology. My older brother Finlay is always out on the water and brings me rocks smooth from the ocean. I can’t help but wonder where they came from and how they washed up on the Western Isles.

There, now you know my secret wishes! I shall have to take your firstborn child in exchange. Or I suppose I could settle for a secret of your own. If you weren’t studying natural science, what would you be studying? What do you wish you could be doing with your life above all?

Elspeth

Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A.

August 12, 1912

Dear Rumpelstiltskin,

If you teach me to play the cornet, I’ll teach you to dance!

I don’t think there is anything unladylike about geology. Why is it that you never escaped your isle for college? If I had lived in a more geologically interesting place than central Illinois, I might have considered a similar field. I’d always hoped to study American literature—Twain, Irving, and the like—but my father refused to pay for me to spend four years “reading stories.”