REVIEW #53 | THE GIRL IN THE LETTER by Emily Gunnis (Review Copy)

Title: “The Girl in the Letter”

Author: Emily Gunnis

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Publishing Date: 30 July 2019

Pages (paperback): 384

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Read her letter. Remember her story…

“Gripping. Mesmerising. Haunting. Heart-breaking. Once you’ve heard her story, you will never forget The Girl in the Letter.

“Perfect for fans of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore and Kathryn Hughes, this page-turning, moving novel of separation and long-buried secrets will stay with you for ever.

“In the winter of 1956 pregnant young Ivy is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a home for unmarried mothers in the south of England, run by nuns, to have her child. Her baby daughter is adopted. Ivy will never leave.

“Sixty years later, journalist Samantha stumbles upon a series of letters from Ivy to her lover, pleading with him to rescue her from St Margaret’s before it is too late. As Sam pieces together Ivy’s tragic story, terrible secrets about St Margaret’s dark past begin to emerge. What happened to Ivy, to her baby, and to the hundreds of children born in the home? What links a number of mysterious, sudden deaths in the area? And why are those who once worked at St Margaret’s so keen that the truth should never be told? As Sam unpicks the sinister web of lies surrounding St Margaret’s, she also looks deep within – to confront some unwelcome truths of her own…”

Trigger/content warnings:

  • Institutionalization


  • N/A

3/5 stars

*I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis follows two characters: Ivy, a young woman who is institutionalized in a home for unmarried mothers in the 1950s and Samantha, a journalist from present-day who found Ivy’s letters. Sam is attempting to figure out what happened to Ivy before the home is torn down for remodeling.

While I did not enjoy The Girl in the Letter as much as I wanted, it was definitely more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” mentality. I ended up not finishing it and only reading about a third of the novel. However, I still gave a 3-star rating because I thought it had potential and because it seems like a good novel for those who regularly enjoy historical fiction. Though, I did have a couple issues that were mostly personal.

Most of the characters seemed one-dimensional, and I couldn’t connect to any of them. I am a person who needs to connect to the characters — if I don’t, it’s an automatic downside for me. It could have been because I wasn’t that far into the novel, but I didn’t really like Sam as a protagonist. She just seemed flat to me. And her mother, as well as…literally any other older “granny” type character? They all seemed to have the same way of talking, and it constantly reminded me of a stereotypical grandma from a children’s cartoon. I’m sure other readers don’t have a problem about the characters and are more invested in the plot, but it didn’t work for me. As for the writing itself, well…

Even though the initial plot sucked me in, I grew increasingly bored the more I read. I’m not quite sure if this is an example of just trying to read something at the wrong time, but. Eh. When I first read the book’s description, I was pretty excited, especially for learning about the horrific institutions that were apparently set in place to send single mothers away when they become pregnant out of wedlock. But while the first quarter of the novel was engaging enough for me to continue, I quickly grew bored the longer I read. Most of it, again, connects back to the fact that I don’t feel connected to the characters. But it is also because I thought Sam’s chapters were incredibly…bland? I suppose? I personally wasn’t getting what I wanted from the novel, and I grew bored. So, I decided to DNF the novel.

The book itself is probably pretty good within the context of the genre itself, and, again, I want to reiterate that it’s much more of a “me” problem. I’m going to be honest: I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. I usually gravitate more towards fantasy and science-fiction, along with contemporary if I want something that isn’t speculative. Historical fiction is a bit out of my reach, though I thought I’d try it out this time since The Girl in the Letter sounded intriguing. In terms of comparing the novel to others within its genre, it’s probably pretty average, if not better. It just wasn’t for me, and that’s why I still rate it three stars instead of something lower.

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2 thoughts on “REVIEW #53 | THE GIRL IN THE LETTER by Emily Gunnis (Review Copy)

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