The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen @wordsofhelen @MichaelJBooks #bookreview

Lost Letters of William Woolf
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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


My Review

Who wouldn’t be tempted by a book  about lost letters, broken hearts and love in all it’s forms. Not me for one, so I was delighted to lose myself inside the Dead Letters Depot. A building peopled by those hoping to re-unite soggy parcels, lost medals, unrecieved birthday cards and love-lorn confessions with their intended recipients. Set in a pre-internet age circa 1990, mostly it involved a lot of detective work, some intelligent research, a few phone calls and hopefully a resolution. Today Google has taken away the mystique and many people/streets/clues would be found within minutes. On rare occasions the ‘lost item’ was so precious it would be hand delivered to ensure it didn’t go missing again.  Sadly for many, it was impossible to find the owner or intended receiver as a vault full of fur coats, paintings, photo-albums, teddy bears, dentures and books to mention just a few, attested to.

William had worked as a letter detective for eleven years and the thrill of uncovering extra-ordinary stories in the lives of ordinary people has never left him. It even forms the basis of his ‘book’ recording his favourites. But things change the day he discovers the midnight blue envelope containing a letter addressed to ‘My Great Love’ and written by the mysterious Winter. It touches him in a way that others haven’t and when more appear he begins to believe they are actually meant for him. The letters are a catalyst in exposing the problems in William’s life, but will finding the elusive ‘Winter’ actually resolve them?

What isn’t made clear in the blurb, is that William is already married (this is no spoiler at it becomes very clear in the opening chapter). In fact as the book reveals in his first encounter and subsequent wooing of his now wife, Clare, his was a very real and deep love. That the vibrant, intelligent and popular Clare should love him back, was something William found hard to believe. Fast forward to the present and somewhere along the way, the magic has faded, dreams remain unachieved and the minutiae of real life has intervened. In searching for Winter, I believe William is unconsciously searching for his own lost hopes and dreams.

I enjoyed this book, it wasn’t perhaps what I initially expected from the blurb, as I imagined working through the stories of the Dead Letters Depot, while William sought his love. While I did get the latter, and nice little vignettes of the former, what I really got was a realistic portrayal of a marriage falling apart. This made the book, much more real and far less whimsical than it might have been.  Setting the book in a pre internet era harks back to an age when communication in all it’s forms was less immediate and  transient. Communication is a pretty central theme of the book, be it broken or in the case of William and Clare unspoken. Their problems were definitely exacerbated  by what wasn’t said and done, more than by what was.

The other theme of the book is also the mystery of Winter, is she real or the figment of someone else’s imagination? Is she sitting writing letters to a real or imagined ‘Great Love’ and will William find her to discover the truth for himself. In searching for Winter, William inadvertently discovers himself again and what he wants, but will that reality make or permanently break his already fractured marriage? William will either annoy or enchant you, with his search, but I fell for the lost soul that he had become, seeking an escape from reality in search of a perfect love.

My thanks to the publisher, Michael Joseph for a review copy.


  1. Great review. I enjoyed this too although, from the description, I’d been expecting it to concentrate a lot more on the attempts of William and his fellow ‘letter detectives’ to reunite the ‘lost letters’ of the title with their intended recipients. However, I thought it was an interesting and insightful portrait of a marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

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