Letters From Home – Kristina McMorris

Now, I don’t normally read romance or history, but you should never say never. I saw this book in a shop and I’m not really too sure why, but it called to me. The word ‘unforgettable’ naturally jumps out of the page. With the ‘extraordinary’ that precedes it, this story is rather built up. Thankfully, I really enjoyed this novel. It was heart warming and emotional. I really bought into the story, the characters were also incredibly likable. It wasn’t overly sentimental or mushy, something else that I really appreciated. 

The novel opens in Chicargo, 1944, during World War II. It centres around a sparkling and lifelong friendship between three girls: Liz, Betty and Julia. Each girl is coming to a crossroad in their lives. Liz is engaged to be married to her childhood sweetheart, Dalton, but after meeting Morgan, a U.S. soldier at a USO dance, she is not so sure. Liz felt an immediate connection with him, but there was the slight problem of how he was being shipped out the next day. Julia is meant to marry the love of her own life, Christian, who is serving with overseas, but she is offered an internship at Vogue as a result of her incredible talent. However, if she takes it, she feels that this would mean sacrificing her relationship. Betty, repeatedly described as the prettiest girl, is trying to identify who she really is, when she meets Morgan, when Liz leaves the dance. Morgan does not understand why Liz left him, until the end of the novel. She decides to write to him whilst he’s serving overseas. 

The close relationship between Morgan and his brother Charlie is also rather moving. They show the usual ‘brother banter’ between each other, and yet, Morgan feels like he has to protect his brother, especially at war. Morgan wouls have been happy at home, on the farm, he thought it was the best thing to do to sign up as well and watch over his brother. Charlie is described as being very jokey and off the wall. He clearly needs his brother and at war, they needed each other. “Charlie! Where are you?” 

Betty, feeling unsure and having a lack of confidence with her letter writing, begs Liz to help her by writing the first letter. Liz naturally feels apprehension because of Dalton, however, she agrees, letting Morgan believe it is Betty writing to him. The letter motif is essential to this novel, it is what holds the plot together. In an age of emails, the letter is quite romantic. Who doesn’t get excited when they receive a personal letter? That same emotion is what kept both Liz and Morgan going during their own personal challenges; Liz and her relationship, Morgan and the war. 

Overtime, Liz and Morgan exchange many letters. They share their lives, secrets, thoughts and emotions. Their feelings grow and deepen over the year they spend writing. It is also through these letters that we gain a first hand experience of the scenes of war. I found these to be written in great depth with accurate detail. I felt like I could see and smell the associations with war. It was very moving. “I’m actually writing to you tonight crouched in one of those soggy holes. My knee sure doesn’t make a great desk, but with a grain of luck you’ll still be able to read most of this.”

Meanwhile, Betty decides that she too much help in the war effort, and uses her powers of persuasion to enlist in the Women’s Army Corp. Betty soon realises that war is difficult. She faces the injuries and sounds of men slowly dying. I have a massive respect for Betty. This showed another layer to her character other than the beautiful woman that she embodies so well. She too has a love affair of her own. It is only when she lets her guard down that she too ends up getting hurt, when she finds an incriminating photograph. “She felt her very soul being sucked away as she collapsed against the bed, the photo clinging to her hand.” Julia too receives her own heartbreak, and again I feel the description regarding the girls’ reactions is very well written. Liz too makes a life changing decision for herself and Dalton. 

As the war and the novel come to an end, both Liz and Morgan can’t wait to meet each other again. However, love clearly isn’t that simple as it is actually Betty who receives the telegram. When Betty and Morgan meet, naturally Betty has no idea what is going on, being in a jungle for the past year herself. By the closing stages of the novel, everything is tied up in a neat little bow. is too short not to say how you feel to the people you love.” I do feel like I’d like to know more about Julia, but that’s a minor criticism. 

This really is a good summer read and is well written with plenty of historical accuracies. I really felt like I could trust the novel because of the Kristina McMorris’s personal experiences within this novel, being as her grandfather fought in the war, something which is noted before the novel begins. “Respectfully dedicated to the veterans of World War II, a generation of heroes who, like my grandfather, fought valiantly and courageously to secure freedom for us all.” The letters from her grandparents gave her inspiration. For me, I felt all warm inside when I read this book. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but despite it being a genre I don’t normally read, I did enjoy it. A perfect summer read. 

Big love x


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Filed under American Literature, Book review, Historical Fiction

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