The Lost Letters of William Woolf: Complacency, Relationships, and What Ifs

The Lost Letters of William Woolf was a bit of a rollercoaster for me. At first, after I had read the first couple of chapters, I thought this was a book I would have loved a few years ago but had grown out of. But then I got to Clare’s point of view and everything changed. The story was nothing like I thought it’d be. I thought it was going to be about a man trying to “find himself” in some letters he found, but it is more about finding love again in a relationship that has been idling by for a while, about feeling alive again, about obsession, and also, about finding oneself. Clare and William find themselves again. But before I give everything away (have I done that already?), let’s get to the review!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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.

William Woolf works at The Dead Letter Depot. After his writing career died, he got a job looking through letters that couldn’t find their destination for whatever reason. It is his job to try and find who the mail should go to. And that’s where he finds the letters from Winter. In dark blue envelopes, Winter writes to the future love of her life. And the more and more William reads her letters, the more and more he believes that he was meant to read those letters because he is meant for this woman.

As William looks for Winter and his marriage to Clare falls further apart, he decides he must find this woman. His curiosity and his heart will not let him do anything else.

And then there is Clare. She feels like she lost William a long time ago. When he lied to her about his writing, the repeated times he brought up having kids when she said she didn’t want them, and his continuing to work at the Dead Letter Depot. She also feels like she is taking most of the load when it comes to their life. She’s a high-paid lawyer, pays the bills, wants to move but William refuses to when he can’t pay at least half of the bills. She gave up her dream of being an artist for something that wouldn’t leave her poor and hungry, while William was “living his dream.” She’s fed up.

Clare goes on her own journey. She leaves William after realizing that nothing is getting better and takes a trip on her own for the first time in a while. She meets up with her sister, eats on her own, and tries to figure out who she is and what she wants.

I loved both of their stories. They’re well-developed, filled with detail and fine-tuned emotion, and almost perfect in their tone. Right when I thought I knew what was going to happen, the story would go another way. This is a story of real people dealing with a situation probably too many people go through.

The story makes you ask important questions

Can love last forever?

Is it meant to?

Does it mean the relationship was a failure if it ends?

Can two people who lost each other come back together again?

The ending to the book is a bit of a cliffhanger. We don’t really get to find out if Clare and William stay together or if they find happiness somewhere else. While I usually am not the biggest fan of cliffhangers, I liked this ending. I love an ending with a little bit of mystery. It allows almost every reader to be happy. It doesn’t matter what ending you want.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf is a brilliantly well-developed, emotional, and complex. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and cried my eyes out for the last 1/4 of the book. I am giving it 5 out of 5 stars. It was a joy to read, even when the characters and the story were punching me in the heart.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen comes out in the US & Canada on June 4, 2019.

Thank you to NetGalley and Graydon House Books for the free ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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