Tuesday 21 May 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Lost Letters of William Woolf - Helen Cullen

Inside East London's Dead Letters Depot, William Woolf unites lost mail with its intended recipient. White mice, a miniature grandfather clock and a full suit of armour are among the more unusual items lost then found thanks to William's detective work. But when he discovers a series of letters addressed only to 'My Great Love', everything changes.

Written by Winter to a soulmate she hasn't yet met, her heartfelt words stir William in ways he has long forgotten. Could they be destined for him? But what about his troubled marriage? Following the clues in Winter’s letters is the only way for William to solve the mystery of his own heart. 

What did I think?

There is something so very magical about receiving letters through the mail, an event that happens far too infrequently in this day and age of email and text messaging, but cast your mind back 30 years into the era of The Lost Letters of William Woolf and experience the magic of handwritten letters. 

I was vaguely aware of the UK having a 'dead letter office'; a place were undelivered mail is attempted to be passed to the intended recipient or returned to the original sender.  It's actually really fascinating when you google this and I was astounded to read about a postcard sent to Aberdeen, Scotland from Queensland, Australia in 1889 but was delivered more than a century later in 2001.  You can read the fascinating story here but I must get back to what I thought about the book.

I rather liked the character of William Woolf; he seems pretty comfortable in his own skin and likes the comfort of cardigans, despite it making him appear older than his years.  William is an aspiring writing and takes a job in the Dead Letter Depot until his inspiration to write returns but it is clear that William loves his job of reuniting mail with its rightful owners and his book remains unwritten, something that he has kept hidden from his wife, Clare.  This isn't the only clue that the marriage is in difficulty though; after several years of marriage, William and Clare have gotten out of sync and both are wondering if their marriage is worth saving.

It's no surprise that William latches on to letters from Winter, addressed to 'My Great Love', when he is feeling so lost.  Feeling that connection to somebody doesn't come along that often so William is determined to track down Winter but, as time goes on, it is more a case of revealing himself as her great love than reuniting her with her lost mail.  William has to choose between his tangible wife Clare and his imaginary idea of Winter; it sounds like a no-brainer but William Woolf's life is a lot more complicated than that.

Ultimately, this is a story of a marriage in difficulty but Helen Cullen injects a bit of magic and warmth into the story by setting part of it in the Dead Letter Depot.  Some of the stories of items passing William's desk were very moving and one in particular actually brought a lump to my throat.  It gave the story a nice weighting as we switched from the despair of William's marriage to the joy he brings to recipients through his job.  If only he could transfer his job to his life, then everyone could live happily ever after, although this rarely happens in real life.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf is a beautifully written debut, sparkling with the natural lyricism that Irish authors are blessed with.  I suspect that people will be talking about The Lost Letters of William Woolf for a long time to come and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Helen Cullen's next book.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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