05/02/2008

More than Love Letters (by Rosy Thornton)

I had not come across Rosy Thornton before. If I hadn't been sent this book to review by 'The Bookbag', I probably would never have picked it up. The cover is light and fluffy, though not unattractive, and it looks as if it would be 'chick-lit'. Moreover, a quick glance through the book shows that it's an epistolary novel - one written entirely in terms of correspondence (letters, emails, minutes of meetings, etc). I am not particularly keen on letters even in the midst of regular novels, so that would have put me off before I started.

But I'm so glad I did read it, because 'More than Love Letters' is an extremely enjoyable book.


It opens with several letters from Margaret Hayton to her MP, Richard Slater. She writes about greenhouse gases, dangerous wire in a park, the lack of waste bins, and taxes on women's sanitary products. She treats them all with equal passion... and he responds with exactly the same form letter each time, assuring her that he will be looking into the matter in the near future.

It made me smile. I thought Margaret was a middle-aged or elderly do-gooder.

Then, after the minutes of a meeting, there is a letter from Margaret to her grandmother... which made me blink a couple of times, and realise that she must be younger than I had thought. She turns out to be a twenty-four year old primary school teacher. She corresponds not just with her grandmother, but with her good friend Becs who teaches in an inner city school and has an insatiable appetite for men.

There are also emails from Richard Slater to a friend of his, another MP. He, too, assumes that Margaret is an elderly do-gooder until he actually meets her, and finds her extremely attractive...

It's all very cleverly done. The styles of letters are different enough to show the characters of the people concerned, and the story gradually builds up through the various correspondence.

There's a romantic thread running through the book, but there's also an examination of the problem of the homeless, a serious, look at the long-term effects of incestuous child abuse, and a lighter look at the mistakes and misunderstandings that can easily arise in the media. It's thought-provoking in these ways and others, without in any way preaching. Although it took me a little while to get into it, I found it difficult to put down once I had got about fifty pages in.

It's much better written and deeper than typical chick-lit. It reminded me somewhat of the novels by Libby Purves, which also manage to combine a good story with some very thought-provoking issues.

Definitely recommended.

My slightly longer review of 'More than Love Letters' can be found at the Bookbag site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sue, just popping by to say thanks so much for the lovely review! I'm glad you got past the epistolary format (I know it puts off some readers but it was such fun to write!) and persisted to the end.

Rosy Thornton