Joy Lenton's Reviews > The Girl in the Letter

The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis
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it was amazing

This tantalising book proves that the past is rarely a foreign country that is seldom visited. On the contrary, it has deep resonance with our lives in the present, even when we barely register it. And sometimes it jumps out to bite us.

One way we keep the past alive is via old letters that provide intriguing clues to events that took place, as we see here. These surviving relics are rich in mystery and unsolved secrets, ones that link generations and provide evidence to help convict the guilty and assist the living.

Ivy Jenkins, the letter writer, was among other young, vulnerable, pregnant or newly delivered girls we encounter. They met with ill treatment, cruelty and scorn from the nuns, who were supposed to take care of them and their infants.

Those without a partner willing to marry them, severed family ties and no financial support, fail to leave after their confinement. They are forced instead to work for their keep and to offer up their babies for adoption. The child's future remains unknown to them.

It's a heartbreaking scenario and one based on true, historical events. The author pulls no punches in revealing just how very painful it is for these girls to part ways with their infants and to be virtual slaves for the nuns, who punish them severely for their perceived sins.

Back in the present, Samantha Harper, an ambitious journalist, who has the letters in her family's possession, gets wind of the imminent demolition of St Margaret's (the Home for unwed mothers, where Ivy was kept) and has a race against time to unearth its secrets before it gets demolished.

I love the way history, mystery and justice combine in this gem of a novel. Each character is finely and sympathetically drawn. It's a pacey read whereby we desperately hope for a good outcome. It's a heartbreaking yet ultimately heartwarming story. Highly recommended. Keep the tissues handy!
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 6, 2018 – Shelved

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