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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Letter From a Stranger by Barbara Taylor Bradford

Letter From a Stranger by Barbara Taylor Bradford
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (417 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Justine Nolan is a documentary film maker who lost her beloved grandmother a decade ago—the person who was the only source of love and comfort in her life. Her own mother Deborah had always been distant and uninvolved, following her own agenda in pursuit of her career as an interior designer. But when Justine inadvertently opens a letter addressed to her mother, she discovers that not only is her grandmother Gabri alive, but that Deborah has deliberately estranged the family from her for all these years. Justine’s search for her grandmother takes her to Istanbul where she begins to uncover the family’s secrets that stretch all the way back to World War II. As the layers of deception peel away, Justine begins to understand a woman she never really knew…and she begins to ask questions about the true desires of her own heart.

Whether by coincidence or according to a master plan, Justine Nolan, a successful twenty-first century woman, has no idea when she opens a letter addressed to her mother that it will start her moving toward her destiny—a destiny seemingly set in motion three quarters of a century ago.

Letter From a Stranger spans generations and shows humans at their best and worst. Though contemporary and set in a fast-paced, demanding world, this story has a spellbinding story within a story of a horrifying time in history; a time that tested the mettle of the disenfranchised in Germany during World War II.

The plot seems to move along in a deliberate fashion at first, yet every little detail has significance as Justine keeps to her course of action. Barbara Taylor Bradford does a masterful job of weaving together the delightful love story of Justine and Michael Dalton with poignant stories of people ranging from five-year-old Daisy to octogenarians Grandmother Gabriele and her friend Anita.

Like a tapestry of old that tells a compelling story, Letter From a Stranger tells how out of a dark and terrible time, Justine and Michael’s soul mate kind of love finally emerges to bring joy to many. Justine and Michael’s love story along with the love stories in the sub plots are golden threads in the multi-colored tapestry that has dark threads of hatred, greed for power and money, suffering, bigotry, and disease. One of the dark threads I kept hoping would turn to gold is the one of Deborah Nolan, the mother of Justine and her twin brother Richard. Of course, its darkness is eclipsed by the dark threads that represent the horrific events found in Justine and Richard’s Grandmother’s notebook entitled “Fragments of My Life”.

The many colors of the various characters make this tapestry of a tale captivating. Ms. Bradford, as usual, creates such well-developed characters they seem to come alive on the pages and stir a myriad of emotions. Her exquisite writing style engages the senses with subtle metaphors, humor, and with remarkable descriptions like the gardens at the “yalis” that enchant and the night scenes of central Istanbul across the Bosporus at night that are magical. Other descriptions whisk the reader away to vicarious experiences (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) with not only the primary characters but with characters like the darling little Daisy, who wants to buy a ticket to go visit her mother in Heaven; Gabriele, Justine’s grandmother, who at the age of fourteen had to face being an orphan and a Jew during Hitler’s time for eight years; as well as with the many other intriguing characters of contemporary and WWII time.

Letter From a Stranger, packed full of incredible characters, glowing with love, and whispering with mystery, also has spellbinding and earth-shattering happenings at times, that make it “top-of-the-line entertainment.