The Love Letters featured in my favourite book(s) post, and it probably the hardest one to review properly, mostly because it is not YA and it is so much more an adult book than the rest of them.
The Love Letters, by Madeleine L’Engle
Charlotte Napier has much to learn about herself, her faith, and her marriage. She flees to Portugal, desperately looking for comfort after the death of her son and, she thinks, her marriage. There she finds solace in the letters of a 17th century nun who struggled with temptation and sin. As Charlotte achieves a clearer focus on her own pain, she gains a powerful sense of the rigorous and demanding nature of real love.
I have to say the GoodReads synopsis doesn’t really make it justice. This was the first adult book I read from Madeleine L’Engle (she writes YA and adult fiction and also non-fiction), and it soon became a favourite.
This is not a everything is well and will be well book. It is almost three parallel stories (though two of them are technically the same story). The first is the main story, where Charlotte has flown to Portugal to try to meet with her mother-in-law and in a way with herself to figure out if her marriage is worth keeping, if it ever was worth it and unknowingly, to grieve the grief she hasn’t been allowed to feel over the loss of her son. Where she ends up staying, has the book of the letter of a nun (which actually exist) and she starts reading it to pass the time and distract herself.
The letters are followed by the second storyline, which follows the nun (Sister Mariana) as she moves from a ‘perfect nun life’ to falling in love with a soldier.
The third storyline is Charlotte’s again, but this time as she looks at her past and what made her be who she is and choose Patrick as her husband.
At first the stories don’t seem very related (young Charlotte goes on about her father, Christmas, life at boarding school, etc at first), but slowly the stories become one and there is beauty in all of them.
As young Charlotte struggles to define herself amongst all the changes and constant moves, the lack of stability and even her father’s moods; adult Charlotte reflects on her decisions and her marriage. Parallel to all of this is Mariana, falling helplessly in love (in a way an act of rebellion, showing that she is untouchable, and trying to justify her actions in so many ways) and then dealing with the aftermath. Poor Mariana never really thought it through, and asked herself what a soldier would want with a nun when he has a family waiting back home (or any woman, to be fair).
The Love Letters tackles exactly what the title says, love. It tackles love from a father, love from caretakers, love from a mother to her son, love between a husband and wife, love between sisters, all the different ways love can exist (and no, it is not only romantic love, but rather family, friends, others, romantic, lust, etc).
If you are up for a read that will leave you feeling like love doesn’t have to fit the Hollywood script and it is a beautiful but messy thing, then please read this book. I’d just note that it is an adult book and as such tackles topics that a little hard to understand and even relate with as a teenager/young adult.If you’d rather read a Young Adult book that has a similar flavour, I’d recommend And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle, or any other of her books. She has such a marvellous way of writing.
If you’d like to buy the book, it is being reprinted as a paperback and released on the 19th of September here. [I have my mother’s 1980’s copy, I pleaded with her to gift it to me when I moved to the UK, since the book was out of print at the time, so it makes my heart skip a tiny beat to see it is being reprinted.]
Disclaimer: There is an Amazon Associates link, but if you choose to use them and buy from them, know that you’re just helping me buy more books and feed my reading needs. Book synopsis is from Good Reads.