Book Review: The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707The Blurb:

Lost letters have only one hope for survival . . .

Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries. Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning.

Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.


Hardback published 12th July by Michael Joseph also available in audio and ebook formats.


My Thoughts:

If you regularly read my reviews, then firstly THANK YOU, and secondly you’ll know I like to give credit to the important work of cover-artists and illustrators because I feel books are presented so uniquely in these, often fantastic, designs. This cover, designed by the highly talented Helen Crawford-White (@studiohelen on Twitter) is wonderfully colourful and eye-catching; a patchwork of letters, including the important dark blue envelopes relevant to this beguiling story.

This book is about William and his wife Claire’s experiences, both past and present, based in East London, Dublin and Devon during the 90’s. The nostalgia of the 90’s is well placed both because of the style of storytelling and the letter writing premise.

This is an ode to the (dying?) art of letter writing and postcards. I used to love writing letters, both to friends abroad and at school/college, I’ve saved quite a lot of them from my youth; letters seem to have become very rare these days (though I do still absolutely love to receive a letter, one that’s personal and not a bill or trying to get me to take on a credit card though) There is just something more sentimental about letters written by hand on paper, that emails, WhatsApp messages and likes on a social media post just aren’t as capable of; yes the frustrating week wait for a reply is no match for the instant delivery of electronic communication, but there’s simply not that soul. So, probably stemming from this sentimental attachment to letters, I absolutely loved the idea of the Dead Letters Depot, and would like to know where I can apply for this job?!

This is a story that is as much a detective/mystery as it is a love story. I found it uplifting and despite the many flaws and failures of the characters it has a liberating and cleansing effect. This book made me feel similar to when I read “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” & “The Toymakers”, it is human folly laid bare, written in a whimsical, quirky style and after it possibly alters or expands your perspectives on life, and the choices we make.

The letters we see are from the vulnerable, lost and neglected of society (a young boy who craves to run away for example), that lead William on many missions to help or reunite the message to the recipient, or at least offer them to someone who can help. Then there is the enigmatic, yet almost melancholic Winter. She writes to her unknown great love; pouring out her soul whilst also revealing her notable style and exploits, each enticing William to follow the breadcrumbs to track down this captivating writer.

I really connected with the addictive hope of the people who sent the letters despite being so poorly addressed that they’d never reach their intended destination without help. A fitting metaphor for life.

A running theme of this book is Reality vs Fantasy. Both in reading mystical words from an untouchable/unknown source, but also the hopes and dreams we have whilst falling in love. What happens after the big romance ending of finding the love-of-a-lifetime? The reality of expectations, ambitions, disappointments and secrets. This is a book about what happens when love is failing, and how the real consequences play out.

Ripe with expectation, you follow each chapter through different perspectives and piece together the truth of what they each feel but can’t communicate to each other. There is a slow pace, with no dramatic unveiling or twist, but still a comforting conclusion and this in many ways keeps it true to real-life. The antithesis to the rollercoaster plots and sensation of many books that whilst gripping, bare little truth to most peoples’ reality of romance/life. Whereas this leads you gently down the trail to uncover for yourself what the meaning of lost and found truly is.

Additionally, Helen Cullen has cleverly created a lost letters mini series blog, inviting writers to pen their own lost letters, what a stroke of genius, and they are a treat. You can subscribe to get these letters delivered and view the letter archive here .

Thank you to the publisher for granting me a copy of this via Netgalley to read and review entirely in my own words and opinions.



11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

  1. Awesome review. I absolutely have to read this now. Your description of this book reminds me a lot of a short trilogy of books I read when I was younger called Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock. Have you ever read them? If not, I think you should! They are pretty unique, in that the actual letters and postcards are in the books like a picture book, but it is for adults. If you like mystery, and the romance of letters, and a crossover from fantasy to reality, and art (oh the art on the postcards is just… amazing) then you will love it I think! I adore your book review blog and how you also draw attention to the covers. Let us know who the cover artist is! -if it tells you in the books. I like to find and follow them if I can, to get inspired for my own work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fabulous idea for a book and what a fantastic review. You’ve covered so much detail but not given away any spoilers – something I always find a huge challenge! I love the sound of this, and the mini series blog. I’ll have to check this one out – and you’re right, it’s a gorgeous cover! X

    Lisa |

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: July in Review | Bee Reader

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