It has been years since I read one of Barbara Taylor Bradford's books. A Woman of Substance remains one of my favorite books, one I still remember all these years later. Bradford's newest novel, Letter From a Stranger, can't top that one. Even so, it's an enjoyable story partially set in a romantic, beautiful city, Istanbul, Turkey.
Documentary filmmaker Justine Nolan had just returned to the Connecticut home she shared with her twin brother, Richard, when she found a letter addressed to their mother, with no return address. Since their mother, a businesswoman, was in California, Justine opened the letter that would change so many lives. Inside, she found a note from her grandmother's best friend, Anita, saying Gabriele missed her family. Justine and Richard were shocked. On the day of the college graduation ten years earlier, their mother told them their grandmother, Gabriele, had died in the crash of a private plane.
Richard and Justine hatched a plan for Justine to leave for Istanbul to find their beloved grandmother. They used a friend's connections, and Justine's instincts as a journalist to track down the woman they thought had died, the grandmother they missed in their lives.
In finding Gabriele, Justine found a city to love, a man to love, and a family history neither she nor Richard had ever known. Gabriele had painful secrets, stories she had never told her family. It was those stories that tore the family apart, and those same stories that would restore a family. Gabriele's story took the family back to Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, to the story of a courageous young woman with equally courageous friends.
Bradford manages to turn Letter From a Stranger into a romance, a story of tragedy and war, and a story of courage. The characters themselves may come across as stereotypes. Everyone is tall, gorgeous, and wonderful, except for the horrid mother. Even so, the story is enjoyable. And, it's the details of Istanbul, the city with its sounds and smells, that truly bring the story to life. Those details are just as exquisite when she describes Gabriele's magnificent gardens.
It might take a little time to get caught up in the story, but once Justine arrives in Istanbul, Letter from a Stranger becomes a captivating book. It's another success for Bradford. (It still isn't A Woman of Substance, though.)
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
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My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.