Book of the week

Book of the week

Letters to my Husband by Stephanie Butland

This is a story that may be hard to start as immediately we are plunged into tragedy and despair as we learn Elizabeth is grieving for her dead husband, Michael who was drowned rescuing a local girl from an accident in a pond.

We learn very early in the book that Elizabeth and her husband have a happy marriage despite the fact they have not been able to have children.  They fell in love in Australia where Elizabeth lived,  and she moved to his  small home  town in England to be with him.  They are still very close and in love but now Michael, who was a local policeman, has died in heroic circumstances.  The girl he saved, Kate, cannot remember what she was doing in the pond from where he rescued her, and it is a mystery that Michael should have been there at the time.

The letters of the title are written by Elizabeth to her dead husband and through them we understand the love and support they gave each other.  She cannot let go and we follow her anger, desolation and confusion: the usual process of grieving.

The characters in the book are all well drawn and credible.  Michael’s mother is often interfering and irritating but the author shows us why she is difficult, all the other people affected by Michael’s death are understandable and sympathetic.

This is a powerful, heartbreaking novel about relationships and family.  As we follow Elizabeth’s life through the stages of her grief and the unfolding of the Michael’s last months until his death, I was so involved in the proceedings that I found myself hoping that the revelations were not true.  I really wanted to believe in the tenets of happy marriage, unwavering love and strong family bonds.  But of course, life is not like that.

This story raises many questions regarding relationships and trust, while  harrowing,  is absolutely worth reading.  This is a simple tale set in an almost lacklustre location which enables us to focus on the real themes of the basic actions of people and how the smallest contacts  can destroy lives.

The subject of this novel is one we may all have to deal with in our lives as death is a fact not a choice but the way Stephanie Butland has handled this  topic is magnificent.  This is her first novel and I am eagerly awaiting the next one:  although I shall have a box of tissues to hand.

The book is published on 9th April in paperback by Black Swan priced at £7.99