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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World
In this book the author looks at a now vanishing art - that of letter writing. As a child I remember having many pen-pals - some I am still in contact with now, although admittedly we mostly email. Email certainly has its uses and is an immediate way to contact someone, but perhaps they do not have the depth of a letter and the author explores this unique form of...
Published 13 months ago by S Riaz

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Story could have been told in half the number of pages
Published 5 months ago by R. A. G. Green


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World, 10 Nov 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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In this book the author looks at a now vanishing art - that of letter writing. As a child I remember having many pen-pals - some I am still in contact with now, although admittedly we mostly email. Email certainly has its uses and is an immediate way to contact someone, but perhaps they do not have the depth of a letter and the author explores this unique form of communication. He argues that letters in the modern sense are both personal and informative and begin properly with the Romans, "the first true letter writers.". We hear from Cicero, "personal and scheming" and of what Julius Caesar was like as a dinner guest and Seneca, "instructional and disarming", who possibly wrote the first self help manuals.

This entire book is full of wonderful nuggets and just about every famous literary and historical era is covered. From prolific letter writers, such as Erasmus and Madame de Sevigne, to the family letters of the Paston family, whose members lived through the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III. The author looks in depth at love letters, greeting cards, the postal service and how to write the perfect letter. There are endless facts to be learnt - for example that 'x's' on a letter first developed from drawing a cross in medieval times and kissing it as a sign of faith, which developed into shorthand for kisses or where the first fictional letter appears (the Illiad). He examines epistolary novels of the eighteenth century, those who wrote letters with an eye on posterity and being published and those, like Jane Austen, whose letters were domestic in viewpoint (domestic, but certainly not dull - Austen could never be dull in my opinion).

From Virginia Woolf, Ted Hughes, Keats, Robert Browing and Elizabeth Barrett, Anais Nin and Henry Miller, Simon Garfield has unveiled a treasure trove of letters from great literary figures and wonderful love stories. However, I think the most touching of all is that of a couple who were not famous. Interspersed with all the great names in this book are letters from Chris Barker, a Post Office worker who was stationed to North Africa in the Second World War. He began to write to a lady he had previously worked with, Bessie Moore. Friendship gradually blossoms to love in a very sweet way and we read the unfolding story of a courtship entirely by post.

Naturally, the author ends his work in the only way possible - with a thank you letter to everyone who helped him. I would like to add my thanks - this is a wonderful book to either dip into or read in a single setting. Letters range from the formal to the desperate, the chatty to the life changing and the entire book is a riveting read. I am sure that anyone with an interest in history or literature would find this enjoyable and, possibly, even be tempted to write a letter yourself.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Letter writing, 10 Dec 2013
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This review is from: To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World (Hardcover)
It was rather wordy and I found myself skipping quite a bit. I found it somewhat uneven but some chapters were excellent as much for the writing as for their subject (Jane Austen). The unusual love letters were moving
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent slow read, 7 Feb 2014
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Really enjoying the book - but have found pages repeated in the Kindle edition around the 75% with paragraphs not seeming to follow each other.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 20 July 2014
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This review is from: To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World (Hardcover)
Story could have been told in half the number of pages
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5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written. I even bought the hardback and had ..., 11 Aug 2014
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JdeS (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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Fascinating book, beautifully written. I even bought the hardback and had the author sign it when he talked at the Edinburg Book festival. Well worth reading.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull, dull, 26 Nov 2013
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This review is from: To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World (Hardcover)
Dull, dull, dull! No logical structure. Poor quality paper and grainy black and white illustrations. On its way to the charity shop.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 24 Nov 2013
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This book never fully satisfies. It explores some really interesting points but seems to ramble on rather a lot with too many and over long examples. There is a good book there - somewhere.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 23 Nov 2013
By 
Tom (London UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World (Hardcover)
A wonderful journey through the history of the letter from Roman times to its present decline, including a criticism of Jane Austen's literary technique - in short, she was dull - and carried such an amusing anecdote about Oscar Wilde's letter writing that I immediately went out and grabbed a copy of his collected letters.

The book is available cheaper on the Canongate website though.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 15 Nov 2014
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This review is from: To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World (Hardcover)
Delightful insights and an absorbing read.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting journey through the history of correspondence, 19 Nov 2013
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This review is from: To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World (Hardcover)
The importance of letters to our understanding of history is well investigated. An eclectic mix of subjects and characters. Very enjoyable and informative material.
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To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World
To the Letter: A Journey Through a Vanishing World by Simon Garfield (Hardcover - 24 Oct 2013)
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