The Letter Reader by Jan Casey

The Letter Reader – AD sent for review

disclosure:  we were sent the item mentioned for the purpose of review

I have a lovely book to share with you today, one that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  The Letter Reader by Jan Casey was published in paperback last month through Head of Zeus. If you like a good historical fiction novel set in different time periods, then this will be right up your street.

The Letter Reader by Jan Casey

The Letter Reader is the third novel from Casey, but my first experience of her work, and it’s left me wanting more. We meet Connie Allison, the central character in this book, and follow her journey, with chapters moving from the war years starting in 1941  to her present-day life in Doncaster starting in 1967.

In 1941 Connie is newly married to Arthur Allison, he’s serving in the Royal Navy and Connie wants to play her own part in the war effort and decides to join the WRNS.  She becomes a letter sensor, starting her service in London at HMS Holborn, checking letters for espionage, hidden messages, and sensitive information that must not reach enemy hands.   The job has its challenges but Connie shows what a conscientious worker she is, with a good eye for suspicious correspondence which sees her promoted and eventually offered the opportunity to work in Bermuda.  She writes to her husband to see what he thinks of this exciting opportunity for her, but Arthur is dead against the move and promptly clips her wings.  He wants her safe at home instead and insists she takes a role on home soil instead.

In 1967 Connie has just moved to Doncaster with Arthur as he takes on a new position in a local energy plant.  She’s a bored housewife, desperate for a bit of independence and looking for some real purpose to her life.  She’s being totally stifled by her controlling husband, who refuses to allow her to get a part-time job, tells her exactly what they will eat every day, and insists she cooks him a meal each lunchtime.  Her whole life revolves around him and his needs and somewhere along the line, she has totally lost herself. Maybe if they’d been able to have children her life with her husband might have taken a different path.

During her time as The Letter Reader, Connie would read snippets of other people’s lives and some of the letters and their contents stick in her mind for years.  Whatever became of the letter writers and their recipients?  When Connie has the opportunity to break free of Arthur and her suffocating home life she decides to track down some of those people who have stayed in her thoughts all of these years to see how life turned out for them.

I quickly became totally invested in Connie as a character and found her story absorbing.  You really want her to stand up to Arthur and find the woman she was during the war years and to really live life to the full.  The Letter Reader is beautifully written and you know you’re on to a winner when you end a book and want to read more of the author’s work as soon as possible.  That’s exactly how this novel has left me.

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