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Letters of Note by Shaun Usher is a collection of letters that provoke, delight and entertain from one page to the next.
I was recommended to read the collection by an Irish guy I met who was performing in an Irish bar in Oslo. He assured me that I would not regret purchasing the book and he was totally right.
By the time I had touched down back in Amsterdam and checked out the book online, I had decided I wanted to add the book to my reading list. I enquired at Waterstones to see if they had the book in stock and to my delight they had, so it was all ready for me to pick up the following day.
From the very first page I was hooked, and the more I read, the more I couldn't put the book down. The letters cover a wide range of topics and the authors are some known to us while others are anonymous. I found myself rereading and rereading each letter. Some are long, some are short. Some handwritten, others typed. Each with a small summary and when available, a copy of the actual letter itself.
Even though we are not the intended recipient of these letters, we are given the rare opportunity to witness the thoughts, feelings, and aspirations of real people responding to real-life situations. The insight given into the lives conveyed within the letters is heartwarming, heartbreaking and heartfelt.
Throughout the book, the reader is taken on a trip around the world, through the ages and from historical event to another. One letter transports the reader back to the 15th century with Leonard da Vinci, another to the moment a couple of fans share their fear of Elvis being drafted and even to the final moments of Virginia Woolf's life in her tragically beautiful suicide letter.
I found myself bringing up the book in most conversations, I was so enchanted with it. Did you know the story of the original Elephant Man and the public appeal to help him live the last years of his life in peace? Were you aware that Queen Elizabeth sent Eisenhower a recipe for scones? Can you believe Annie Oakely offered fifty of her best female sharpshooters to the American military in the 1890s?
Needless to say, each and every letter had an impact on me. At times they caught me off guard, others received a hoot of laughter, and ultimately, they had me reaching for a pen and paper to write my own letters and share my recent thoughts and experiences with others.
Letter writing is a fading form of communication. I spent some time pondering this and thinking about the impact of technology will have on the information available in the future. In years to come, I wonder what the generations after us will look back to in order to get an insight into years gone by and the people who have lived. Historians and enthusiasts have learnt so much about people and events from the correspondence written at the time. From love letters, to rejection notes, and letters of protest, they all give a look into moments in time that perhaps we would never have known about.
Thereby, after reading Letters of Note, the importance of letters and future letters that are yet to be written is simply strengthened. Not just to give an insight into historical moments and people’s thoughts and opinions but to also inspire, excite and inform.
Ultimately, without the publication of these letters, only the reader and recipient would have been the sole readers of the knowledge within but the demand for this knowledge will never fade.