The Lost Letters Of William Woolf by Helen Cullen Michael Joseph July 12th 2018
Lost letters have only one hope for survival . . .
Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries. Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.
When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning.
Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?
William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.
Do you think they still have a lost letters department at the Royal Mail? I would like to think they do, and I think it would be a job that I, myself would love, just like William Woolf.
Woolf reminded me of an academic such was the way in which Cullen described his appearance, in some ways he seemed older than he actually was. A failed writer, he appeared to be a man who had slightly lost his way, become stuck in a rut, afraid to take a chance and move on.
He was a bit like his marriage, stale, lost in the minutiae of everyday life, two people drifting apart, not sure how or if they can bring it all back together.
Claire was William’s complete opposite, a high flying lawyer, resentful of William’s lack of ambition and their small flat. I did wonder if William or Claire or even both of them would frustrate me and that I would become inpatient, willing them to sort themselves out. Instead Cullen crafted a narrative that was both poignant and emotive. Both had their dilemmas, to stay or to go and it was only in the retelling of their separate journeys that you slowly began to understand them. It was William’s story that really stood out for me, his discovery of a series of love letters from the mysterious Winter, allowed me to really see who William was, as he dug deep within himself, questioning his life and his love for Claire.
I particularly loved the way in which Cullen interspersed the myriad of lost letters within the story, making this novel more than just about a marriage. It was also the perfect way in which to see the real William and his sensitivity towards others, and the importance he put on ensuring the mail reached the intended persons.
It was a novel that had a huge heart, and one in which I desperately wanted a happy outcome for William and Claire. Cullen cleverly kept me guessing, with a will they or won’t they theme throughout and I will admit to being just a little inpatient, furiously turning the pages to discover the outcome.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and would love to see it adapted for TV, as it would make a brilliant drama series.
I cannot wait for what Cullen will write next and hope she does not leave it too long before novel number 2 appears.
I would like to thank Michael Joseph for a copy to read and review and to Katie Ashworth for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London.
She worked at RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) for seven years before moving to London in 2010. In the UK, Helen established a career as an events and engagement specialist before joining the Google UK marketing team in 2015.
Her debut novel, ‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ will be published in 2018.
The first draft of this novel was written while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing programme under the mentorship of Michèle Roberts. Helen holds an M.A. Theatre Studies from UCD and is currently completing an M.A. English Literature at Brunel University.
Helen is now writing full-time and working on her second novel.