This is a good epistolary fiction set in contemporary France. Esther runs a bookshop and when she loses her father to suicide, she runs an ad in the newspaper inviting people to join her letter writing workshop. Five people sign up – a disillusioned businessman, a husband and wife struggling with her postpartum depression, a lonely elderly widow, and an awkward teenager trying to deal with his brother’s death from cancer. The group meet first in person to get to know each other, and are asked to answer one simple question: What Battles Are You Fighting?
After their first meeting, each person chooses two people to write to, and must follow the prompts that Esther provides each week. Initially cautious in their writing, the group eventually begin to open up to each other about their life and the battles they are fighting, and soon they are sharing hopes, dreams, fears and advice with each other.
I had high hopes for this book because I really enjoy reading epistolary books (a literary work in the form of letters), but this book left me wanting. The author did a fair job of developing the characters, however I felt like their growth throughout the book was more minimal than I wanted. I also felt that some of the letters exchanged between people were really disjointed and I couldn’t really figure out the point the author was trying to make. Perhaps the meaning was just a bit too subtle for me to grasp – who knows.
I enjoyed the letters between Jean (the widow) and Samuel (the teenagers) and felt that Jean provided non-judgmental acceptance and guidance from an adult to Samuel that he was lacking in his strained relationship with his parents. Some of the letters left me upset and uncomfortable (which was perhaps the author’s intention) and others didn’t resonate with me, mainly because the subject matter didn’t interest me.
The book is well-written and flows smoothly. I think a lot of people will enjoy this book, it just wasn’t for me mainly because of some of the subject matter of the book just didn’t interest me.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Hodder and Stoughton. All opinions are my own.