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Epistolary Fiction

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  • Person writing a letter

Jennifer, Clemens Mill | November 1, 2019

Have you ever read a novel that is told through letters, journals, or other forms of documentation? This type of novel is called epistolary, from the Latin “epistola” for “letter". I always find that this type of story offers an element of intimacy, allowing the reader a rare glimpse into someone’s innermost thoughts.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Book Cover of Dracula by Bram Stoker

 

Dracula the 1837 classic gothic horror novel relies entirely on various documents to tell the story, such as letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, telegrams, ship logs and doctors’ notes.

Book cover of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by  Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the story of Juliet, who through letters, becomes very close to a group of friends who live in Guernsey (including the dashing Dawsey). Eventually she is drawn across the ocean to meet them and discovers her true home.

Book cover of Clara Callan Richard B. Wright

 

Clara Callan is made up of letters between two sisters Clara and Nora, as well as Clara’s journal entries. This story takes place in 1936 Ontario, when the first telephones were being installed in homes and something called a “party line” was introduced. Suddenly there was an alternative to paper and ink correspondence, one that came with the possibility of someone listening in on your calls.

Book cover of Letters from Skye by  Jessica Brockmole

 

Letters from Skye is made up of a correspondence between Elspeth and David, two book lovers who share their hopes and dreams with each other before David goes off to war. This one is about misplaced love letters and reading between the lines.

Book cover of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time takes the form of a journal of a fifteen-year-old autistic boy named Christopher. His journal entries include mysteries in his life that he is trying to figure out, such as the murdered neighbourhood dog, and the discovery of recent letters from his mother, who he believed to be deceased.

Book cover of The Handmaid's Tale by  Margaret Atwood

 

The Handmaid’s Tale takes the form of a transcription of the heroine, Offred’s messages that she records on cassette tapes and seals in a buried box in hopes to enlighten future generations of her plight as a handmaid.

Book cover of The Martian by Andy Weir

 

The Martian is a series of journal entries by astronaut Mark Watney who is left behind on Mars when after an accident, his crew believes him dead. Mark is alive however, and tries to document everything he can as intelligence for the next person who comes along.

Book cover of Where'd you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

 

Where’d You Go Bernadette? is the story of the extraordinary Bernadette Fox, told through letters, emails and texts, that piece by piece reveal a brilliant woman who is misunderstood. After being blindsided by her husband, she disappears, leaving her daughter to try to figure out where she’s gone.

 

Book cover of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

 

Gilead takes the form of a letter from a dying father to his young son, so that when he grows up he will still have a connection to him.

 

 

 

Here are some more epistolary novels that you might enjoy!