The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis

Thank you Quercus Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: abuse, violence, murder, death, kidnapping.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars


“I love you and I will be watching you and holding your hand for ever. Now run, my darling, RUN.”

Kicking off the rapid paced novel, The Girl in the Letter, Gunnis tells of a journalist named Sam who finds letters from 1956 in her grandfather’s old documents. The letters are from a young woman named Ivy, an unmarried pregnant woman living in a convent specifically for unwed mothers and “illegitimate” children who were forced to be given up for adoption. Sam, a journalist, starts digging into the letters and as her research reveals connections to famous talk-show host Kitty Cannon, Sam is determined to uncover the truth and make it a feature story.

Though the novel had a lot of promise and the plot is really intriguing, there were a few issues I took with this novel that distracted me from being completely absorbed in the mystery and history of the novel. The first is that there’s a lot of telling, and not a lot of showing. There’s a bunch of dialogue in the novel, so the plot tends to jump forward in time, rather than the reader being transported from setting to setting. This makes the plot feel rushed and the dialogue forced to give context clues to the overall mystery. Additionally, this means that EVERY character in this book has a name, even if they have no relevance to the major plot. I ended up having to break out a character map because names were being tossed around, and I started to lose track of who was who, or who might be relevant in the future as things unfold.


Despite the confusion and conflicts with the author’s writing style that I had with the book, I kept reading to find out what would happen, and was surprised by the plot twists towards the end. Although I predicted Sam’s connection to Ivy, I didn’t predict the completely chaotic ending. I thought Gunnis’ novel would be pretty simplistic- a historical fiction dual timeline that eventually converges- but it turned out to be much more of a suspense thriller. I was surprised by the historical context behind the convent for mothers, and am horrified by the treatment of these mothers. Even though The Girl in the Letter is fictional, these accounts of banished single mothers have a lot of truth, shame, and gruesome detail to them, and I appreciate Gunnis’ attempt to shed some light on this part of history.

Overall, if you’re looking for a fast paced historical fiction thriller, this is a good choice.

Published: August 1, 2018

Publisher: Quercus Publishing

TL/DR: The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis is a novel about a young woman named Ivy who is forced into a home for unmarried, pregnant women, and made to give up her daughter. Sixty years later, a woman finds these letters and searches for the history and truth behind them.

Read it? Yes, if you’re looking for a suspenseful, historical fiction novel it could be right down your alley.

Recommend it? Yes to a certain extent. If someone is looking for a novel that fits this one, then I’d recommend.

Buy it? No, I would borrow a copy first, then buy it if you love it.

If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:

  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
  • The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
  • The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

Categories: Book Review, Fiction, Historical, Mystery, Suspense Thriller

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3 replies

  1. Great idea with the character map thing, I’m definitely doing that when I come across a book with lots of characters to follow. I always end up wondering who’s who and it’s a great way of keeping track! Thank you for sharing, great post 😊👍🏻

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