Epistolary Novels: Background information when reading Letters to the Lost

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Letters to the Lost

by Iona Grey

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey X
Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey
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  • First Published:
    May 2015, 384 pages

    May 2016, 384 pages


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Epistolary Novels

This article relates to Letters to the Lost

Print Review

Epistolary novels are not new – Bram Stoker's Dracula, for example, was published in 1879, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein even earlier, in 1818. The form, which is not limited to letters, (nor to horror novels!) but also includes journal entries, newspaper clippings, emails, and other forms of correspondence, has held appeal, perhaps, because of its inherent hush-hush nature: the main character seems to share a secret with the reader, something meant for his or her own eyes, or one other beloved's eyes. The reader feels lucky to be included in the communication. Whatever the reason, the epistolary novel continues to be written, and enjoyed. Iona Grey's debut novel, Letters to the Lost, is one such novel. Here are 10 others. It is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but a good place to begin investigating this intriguing form.

Every Blade of GrassEvery Blade of Grass by Thomas Wharton (2014)
A compelling historical fiction, Every Blade of Grass is the story of the correspondence between Martha, a New York journalist, and James, an ecologist from Vancouver. Martha stays close to home as James travels the world, and through their letters they share their love of nature and their growing love for one another.

Code Name VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)
A spy caught in enemy territory, Verity is forced by the Gestapo to reveal her mission or be executed. A visceral and emotional read, Code Name Verity is a young adult story for everyone about the deep power of friendship.

Where'd You Go Bernadette?Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (2012)
Bernadette Fox disappears when her daughter, Bee, aces her report card and wants to cash in on her promised prize: a trip to Antarctica. Satirical and heartwarming, this novel follows Bee's email messages, official documents and other correspondence as she tries to find her mother.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows (2008)
Writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject and she finds it in a letter from a man she has never met, who lives in Guernsey, a British island close to France which was occupied during World War II. Set during and after the war, this novel is a humorous and warm story of an eccentric and deeply human group of characters, and a celebration of the written word.

Life As We Knew ItLife as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2006)
Told in journal entries, Life as We Knew It follows Miranda as she attempts to hold onto hope after a meteor knocks the moon closer to earth and she, her two brothers and her mother try to survive. A young adult novel sure to make your heart pound.

GileadGilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004)
In 1956, Reverend John Ames writes a letter to his son – about his father, a pacifist preacher, and his grandfather, a minster who fought in the Civil War as an abolitionist. A story of the sacred bond between fathers and sons.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003)
Christopher is gifted with a logical brain. He is also autistic. Routine, order and predictability are what he needs to navigate the messy, sometimes chaotic world. Then Christopher's carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor's dog dead, and he is initially blamed for the killing. A deeply poignant, funny, and even emotional story, told by a boy who doesn't know how to experience emotion.

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1998)
A cult favorite coming-of-age story, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie as he journeys on the strange path between adolescence and adulthood. He experiences it all – first dates, family drama, drugs and friends.

Bridget Jones' DiaryBridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding (1998)
A year in the life of the hysterical Bridget Jones as she navigates the waters between her single friends and her married ones – always trying to find her balance and keep afloat.

The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)
The story of two sisters – one a missionary to Africa and the other a child wife living in the South – who stay connected across time and distance. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

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This "beyond the book article" relates to Letters to the Lost. It originally ran in June 2015 and has been updated for the May 2016 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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