For anyone who has read books such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or 84, Charring Cross Road, you'll know of the exquisite joy, humour, character and life that letter writing can bring in fiction and real life. Letter writing is ultimately the art of story telling. And letters over the years have enriched our literary world and personal lives.
Publishing giants such as Diane Athill are famous for a life of letters. In an interview with the Observer magazine the reporter wrote of her sitting in her favourite chair surrounded by piles of letters from her past. These letters have been archived in Tulsa University thanks to her correspondence with some leading literary names of her time including author of Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, providing a fascinating insight. Athill was Rhys's editor and confidante. She talks of the joy of going over the letters again like a doorway into another life.
Letters certainly enrich life and keep memories alive as well as offering a life line to some. Alan Bennett's famous Lady of Letters dramatic monologue became a popular hit in 1987 and one of the best-selling audio book releases of all time, featuring on A-level and GCSE English syllabuses. Bennett's character Irene Ruddock is lonely and lives alone. She writes to everyone, being a nosy busy body writing to MPs, the police, even the chemist, righting the social ills she sees around her. Her letters land her in prison with the twist being that that's where she finally feels free for the first time in her life as she's no longer alone.