More Than Love Letters by Rosy Thornton

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More Than Love Letters by Rosy Thornton

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Margaret cares passionately about many things. Her MP assumes she is an old biddy until he meets her... a novel told entirely in letters.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: April 2007
Publisher: Headline Review
ISBN: 978-0755333875

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This novel opens with several letters from Margaret Hayton to her MP, Richard Slater. She writes about greenhouse gases, dangerous wire in a park, the lack of waste bins, and taxes on women's sanitary products. She treats them all with equal passion... and he responds with exactly the same form letter each time, assuring her that he will be looking into the matter in the near future.

It made me smile. I thought Margaret was a middle-aged or elderly do-gooder.

Then come the minutes of a meeting of the bizarrely named WITCH (Women of Ipswich Together Combating Homelessness), at which Margaret is adopted as a new member.

And then there is a letter from Margaret to her grandmother... which made me blink a couple of times, and realise that she must be younger than I had thought. It also made me wonder when the novel was going to start. So I flicked ahead a few pages... and a few more... and realised that the entire book consisted of letters, interspersed with few more minutes of meetings and perhaps a memo or two. A classic epistolary novel, in other words. It's not a style that generally appeals to me - I tend to skip over letters when they appear in the midst of regular novels. But I already wanted to know more about this intriguing Margaret, so I kept reading.

I'm glad I did. Margaret turns out to be a twenty-four year old primary school teacher. She corresponds not just with her grandmother, but with her good friend Becs who teaches in an inner city school and has an insatiable appetite for men. She and Becs like to surprise each other with erudite words thrown in the middle of sentences, and give each other points out of ten for them.

There are also emails from Richard Slater to a friend of his, another MP. He, too, assumes that Margaret is an elderly do-gooder until he actually meets her, and finds her extremely attractive...

It's all very cleverly done. The styles of letters are different enough to show the characters of the people concerned, and the story gradually builds up through the various correspondence. None of it felt false, and although there is a fairly large cast in the book, I found that I could see them through Margaret's eyes (mostly) and get to know them gradually.

It's not just a romance, although that's a thread running through the book. There's an examination of the problem of the homeless, particularly refugees from abroad. There's a serious, sometimes shocking look at the long-term effects of incestuous child abuse. And there's a lighter look at the mistakes and misunderstandings that can so easily arise in the media. It's thought-provoking in these ways and others, without in any way preaching. Although it took me a little while to get into it, I found it difficult to put down once I had got about fifty pages in.

It's much better written and deeper than typical chick-lit, despite the frothy looking pastel cover to the book. With characters of all ages, it would probably appeal to most women, and perhaps even some men. It reminded me somewhat of the novels by Libby Purves, which also manage to combine a good story with some very thought-provoking issues.

Definitely recommended. If you like this, you might also like The Crowded Bed by Mary Cavanagh, Keep Me Posted by Lisa Beazley or Blue Slipper Bay by Wendy K Harris.

Many thanks to the author for sending the book.

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