For the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication by John O'Connell
|For the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication by John O'Connell|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: An engaging look at letter-writing past and present with some great examples from famous names.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: November 2012|
|Publisher: Short Books|
|External links: Author's website|
With the advent of mobile phones and e-mail, is there still a place for good old-fashioned letter-writing in the world today? John O'Connell certainly thinks there is, and has written a compelling argument in this book which, if you haven't put pen to paper for some time, may be enough to remind you of the benefits of slower correspondence in today's high-speed world.
This is a really interesting little book, with profiles of some of the most famous letter-writers, details of the history of letter-writing, and, of course, numerous extracts from famous correspondence. There's an impressive list of people whose mail is quoted, including Horace Walpole, Jane Austen, and Mary Shelley. (Fans of Sir Walter Scott may want to steer clear though, I was shocked and appalled by his treatment of his poor daughter in one particular letter!) It also has fascinating advice given in style guides of years gone by, including Lewis Carroll's tip that 'cross-writing makes cross reading'. (Cross-writing, for those unsure, was the practice of saving paper by filling a sheet then turning it at right angles and carrying on on the same sheet.)
It's touching in parts - particularly the scenes which book-end the volume, in which O'Connell writes a letter of thanks to a friend who sent him a letter of condolence after the death of his mother. At other times, it's funny (particularly the author's observations on the difficulty today of actually finding the necessary stationery to write a letter!), surprising (I was shocked to realise how little of the history of the postal service I actually knew) and always informative. It's also very thought-provoking - in a time when primary school children are experts at sending e-mails, why do books like Janet and Allan Ahlberg's The Jolly Postman have such an appeal? O'Connell does a wonderful job of capturing just what's so special about the handwritten word, with an engaging writing style which will draw you in to the book.
Highly recommended as a really interesting book which would no doubt make a fabulous stocking filler, as would many other books from the same publisher.
For another excellent non-fiction book from the same publisher with a similarly readable writing style, How To Be Danish: From Lego to Lund. A Short Introduction to the State of Denmark by Patrick Kingsley is one of my personal favourites.
You can read more book reviews or buy For the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication by John O'Connell at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy For the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication by John O'Connell at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.