Last week, I asked you what “best” lists you’d like to see on The Book Case. One reader responded:
Barbara, this one is for you!
I was introduced to epistolary novels when I read Beverly Cleary’s Newbery winner Dear Mr. Henshaw in elementary school. Since then, I count several of my favorite books as novels written as letters. What are your favorite contemporary epistolary novels?
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. In Shriver’s suspenseful novel, a high school student massacres his classmates (think Columbine). The book is told from the point of view of the killer’s mother as she writes letters to her estranged husband, the killer’s dad. The novel is gripping and horrific, and I literally stayed up until 4 a.m. reading it on a Tuesday. Added bonus: A movie version is coming out in September. Read more about We Need to Talk about Kevin.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. On the lighter side, Guernsey is completely charming—it’s an ode to books, a love story and a journey to a faraway place, all in one. In a recent edition of BookPageXTRA, Lynn described it as “a novel-in-letters that tells the story of the island of Guernsey’s Nazi occupation during World War II. Blending history, intrigue and even romance, it’s definitely a trip worth taking.” Read more about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon. In this novel by Sapphire protégé Kalisha Buckhanon, a teen boy and girl from Harlem exchange letters while the boy is in prison. This novel is filled with passion, sorrow, vibrant prose and Romeo and Juliet-like ardor. (What else could you want in a novel?) Read more about Upstate.
The Communist’s Daughter by Dennis Bock. The narrator of The Communist’s Daughter is (real-life) pioneering battlefield surgeon H. Norman Bethune, and the plot advances as he writes letters to his infant daughter. Dive into this book for a fascinating perspective on warfare. Read more about The Communist’s Daughter.
Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros. Is it still an epistolary novel if the document in question is a series of tweets? I say yes. BookPage calls the fun and heartfelt Goodnight Tweetheart “a shrewd depiction of romance in an era of instant connection.” Read more about Goodnight Tweetheart.
Both of these novels are told only partly in letters, but I still believe they deserve honorable mentions:
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. In Kostova’s bestseller, a girl unravels her father’s secret about Dracula through a collection of letters. When this novel came out in 2005, BookPage called it “stunning.” Read more about The Historian.
The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips. Phillips’ second novel takes readers into the competitive world of post-World War I Egyptology, where an archeologist is on the hunt to discover a pharaoh. Much of this witty story is told in the form of letters from both the archeologist and a detective. Read more about The Egyptologist.
What do you have to add to this list?