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Twenty-Six Letters by Charlotte Nash

Just as Wil (Wilhemina) is about to turn 30, she discovers that her mother, who died when she was a small child, had written her a series of letters as she was dying, one for her to read on each birthday until she turned 18. Wil never received the letters as intended, but when she is finally given them it opens up a whole treasure chest of discovery for her.

Wil works as a tiler and carpenter in her dad’s business on the Gold Coast. She has an older sister, who she is upset with for moving away to another city, and also two step brothers from her father’s second marriage. Things are not going at all smoothly in Wil’s life. She keeps making mistakes at work, she has an awful boyfriend, and she doesn’t get along with her father, who is about to make her move out of the family home.

As Wil gets more immersed in the letters, she discovers the life story of the mother she never knew. It seems like an opportune time to make a bold move and visit the small English village where her mother grew up in order to find yet another set of letters that were hidden there for her to collect. She’s over 10 years too late though, so doesn’t know if they will still be there.

Wil’s mother intended her to open one letter each year, so they are addressed to her on each birthday and written as if she was reading them at the age she should have been. Slowly the letters reveal her mother’s story from growing up in the village, to her relationships, her adventures in different parts of the world, and then, sadly, to her illness, which led to her early death.

When she does arrive in the English village she already feels a connection to it and the people there through the stories her mother has shared with her. It’s a lot for Wil to take in and an emotional rollercoaster as she gets to meet the people who have shaped her mother’s life.

Wil is a lovable character, often clumsy and outspoken but with a genuine desire to set things straight. There is enough mystery and romance to make it an engaging read, and a collection of characters to entertain. Set in Australia and England it’s a familiar story of young people setting out into the wide world to make a new life, leaving people behind, breaking up sad relationships, and then learning to live with whatever the future holds. As Wil makes her way through her mother’s letters (the missing ones in England mysteriously start to turn up) , she also becomes a wiser and more mature person and she discovers as much about herself as she does about the mother she never really remembered.

This is a great read. It’s well written and has a nice balance of humour and mystery. It’s the sort of book you want to keep on reading to find out the next twist and turn of the story.

Reviewer: Rachel White

Allen & Unwin


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