Saturday, July 27, 2013

Two Reviews in One: Letters from Skye and Map of Lost Memories

I've been busy reading all week and I've decided to give a combined review of two historical novels I read on my Nook.  Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole takes place from 1912-1917 and also during 1940 in Scotland and England and is written all in letters.  It's the story of Elspeth, a young married woman who writes poetry, and David, a young American living in Urbana, Illinois.  It starts out innocently enough, with David writing a fan letter to Elspeth.  She's had a few books of poetry published, and one found its way into David's hands during a hospital stay.  

This is the beginning of years of correspondence between the two; they fall in love while writing about their lives, the impending war, and desperately wanting to meet each other face to face.  The other letters from 1940 are written by Margaret, Elspeth's daughter, and her fiancé as she copes with her mother leaving home to travel to London in search of her past.  Do Elspeth and David make it?  Can their love survive war and distance, with only a few meetings to sustain their passion for one another?  

I did enjoy this novel, but felt that they fell in love a bit too quickly.  It didn't seem like a smooth transition from friendship to deep love.  Otherwise, I did like the novel and anyone who wants a bit of historical fiction tossed in with a novel written in letter form should pick it up.  Perfect for a quick vacation read.

Rating:  6/10; letter form is always an interesting way to write a novel.  David's journey through France during WW1 as an ambulance driver will keep you flipping the pages.

Available in hardcover, e-book, and audio.

I have to say I was disappointed in this novel.  I had high hopes for an adventure in 1920's Cambodia, and I felt a bit let down that the adventure didn't occur until well into the story.  

Irene is a young woman who's lived all her life at the Brooke Museum; her father was the night watchman there and she spent all of her time learning about the mysteries of Cambodia and the Khmer people.  She's been a huge asset to the museum, and expects to be head curator.  Unfortunately, she is passed over because she's a woman and she doesn't have the "education" needed for the position.  Completely disillusioned, she quits and is hired by long time family friend Mr. Simms to go to Cambodia to find a lost temple.  This temple holds 10 copper scrolls that have the complete history of the Khmer people engraved on them--they are priceless, both to museum collectors and to the people of Cambodia, who are under French rule and are slowly being erased from history.

Irene enlists the help of Simone, a french woman who is well known in the area for her communist leanings and her knowledge of Cambodia and it's people.  Irene also meets Marc, a man who knows everyone and everything about the area--but is he on her side?  What secrets does he have?  Some will surprise you.

Most of the novel is about the political unease in this area during the 1920's and how the natives are being treated by the French and English.  It's also about the shameless pillaging of native treasures by collectors around the world.  It leads to the question:  do we leave these priceless items with their people, in a dangerous unstable environment, or take them away to preserve them?  This is an ongoing battle even today with museums and countries fighting to keep what they consider their property.  

It took me a long time to get through this novel; I was a bit bogged down by the constant back and forth of who was a good guy and who was a bad guy.  The political issues dragged on, and I just wanted Irene and her gang to get into the jungle already!  I don't even know if I liked Irene all that much.  She too was driven by her own agenda and not so much about the land she was traveling through.  Yes, she does change by the end of the novel, but it felt a bit too late.  The descriptions of the cities, the absolute dripping humidity, and the languid life the Europeans lead were all wonderful and the best part of this story.

Rating:  6/10; wonderful descriptions of 1920's Shanghai and Cambodia and the lost temples of the Khmer people.  Story was bogged down by politics and people's agendas.

Available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.


  1. Great blog!
    I'm wondering: Do book lovers necessarily have to be book collectors?
    I tried to get rid of my books and failed miserably
    What do you think?

    Love from Germany,

    1. Hi Sarah! I don't really consider myself a collector of books. I just like to own what I read; the books I really love I consider part of my life! I have started to slowly pass on books to others over the years; I realize I can't keep everything. This way I get to share what I loved with others.

  2. Both books sound like they are worth reading, Thanks for sharing!