Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (expected April 2014)
This isn’t easy for me to evaluate exactly how I feel about this book.
On the one hand, I really admire the epistolary kind of style and I think it stands out because of it. The danger with communicating through letters to other people is that there is a sense of detachment from the action. It’s all very firmly in the past tense and although there are some letters that are more detailed and allow the reader to relive the emotion and the moment, it was hard for me to really ‘feel’ it. And I wanted to.
I think that handling the themes of personal grief and identity can be difficult and I was really impressed with how it was done.
What did I like in this book?
- Form – As I said above, I thought that it was brave and different to do this in letter form rather than the usual prose fiction style.
- Variety – I was surprised by the range of people Laurel wrote to from Kurt Cobain to Amelia Earhart.
- Laurel – I connected with her character, but I do wonder if it was more because of the nature of the narrative. Her emotional responses and general way of being was something that I could truly identify with.
- Themes and plot – Overall, I enjoyed Laurel’s progression, reading as she moved towards a more positive place.
What didn’t work for me?
- Form – I think this works against the book as much as it works for it. Like I mentioned, there is a strong sense of detachment from the action. Also, I found the structure of it somewhat jarring. As a reader you’re depending on Laurel to write her letters, which can vary in intervals. It breaks up the flow.
- Ramble on – Laurel sometimes gets carried away and I found myself drifting off… It’s difficult, I guess, to capture the right balance.
As a whole, I love the idea of this book. But I think it has its drawbacks. Laurel is a very likable character and her story is engaging. There are moments where the narrative practically shines, and then it dulls again. Ebb and flow.
A happy 3/5. I can’t give it any more, but I don’t have the heart to give it any less.