The Letter
by Sylvia Atkinson
AuthorHouse UK

"Ben said firmly, 'This is the custom and so it will be.'"

Occasionally a fictionalized account of an author's life or history is written with such passion that the voice within the words is loud and moving. Such is the case with Atkinson's story of her parents' lives.

The book begins in 1985 with Atkinson's mother Margaret as an elderly British woman in Yorkshire with a secret to reveal. Then readers are taken back to Margaret's adult beginnings as a young woman in the 1930s who meets and marries Ben, an Indian medical student. After becoming a doctor, Ben moves back to India and reestablishes his place as eldest son and patriarch of a respected, well-to-do family. Ben sends for Margaret, and she leaves her family to become the British wife of a prominent Indian doctor and officer. Losing all her freedom, yet having servants for every task, she tries valiantly to adjust to her new life and role. Eventually, the book leads us back to the end of Margaret's life in India and her new start back in Scotland and England.

Atkinson is notably skilled at describing a scene as if painting a picture. She doesn't say, "Margaret sailed from Scotland for India." Instead, she draws it with words: " ...the lone figure of her mother, dwarfed by cranes and pulleys, remained staring at the ever-widening strip of water tearing them apart."

From becoming a mother in a foreign country to working as a war-time nurse and eventually starting life over again back in Britain, everything in Margaret’s life happens and unfolds so fast. Sometimes these events are foreshadowed, but at other times they seem to occur unexpectedly. Atkinson's real mother clearly had a rich life-story to tell, and Atkinson writes that story endearingly and impeccably well.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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