I listened to the audio version of this book and found it extremely moving and engaging. There were several readers playing the part of individual characters. All were excellent.
The book takes place in two parallel time zones of war, one beginning in 1912 and the other in 1940. It is told through a series of letters between the characters.
In 1912, the poetess Elspeth Dunn, lives on the Isle of Skye, in Scotland. Once, she had secretly dreamed of being a geologist, but her fear of water has kept her trapped on the island. When she gets her first fan letter from a reader named David Graham who lives in Urbana, Illinois, whose secret dream is to be a ballet dancer, her life takes a turn in a completely different direction. She calls him Davey and he decides to call her Sue, in the frequent, but secret, touching correspondence that develops over the years.
Elspeth’s husband, Ian, a fisherman, had grown very distant and eventually left her to join the fight in Europe, during WWI. Her confused loneliness is abated, not by the rare correspondence from Ian, but by the letters that often arrive from Davey. After some time, Davey also joins the fight in Europe. He will drive an ambulance. She has a divided allegiance, but she misses them both.
Ian was best friends with Elspeth’s brother, Finlay, and when he discovers her secret letter writing and her secret feelings toward Davey, he is enraged because she has been betraying his friend, Ian, who is now MIA and presumed dead. The family is torn apart when Finlay packs up and leaves home. Will the problems ever be solved and families reunited or will many more cans of worms be opened? Will anything move Elspeth to conquer her fear of water to leave the island?
Now move to 1940, Margaret Dunn is meeting and writing to Paul. They believe they are in love. It is again a time of war and he, too, joins up to fight. Her mother warns her to be careful about love in wartime, because it is a time when hearts often make rash decisions. Margaret is confused by her mother’s odd behavior, especially in the coming days, after her mother's secret cache of letters addressed to Sue, is accidentally discovered in their home. Sue is a person unknown to Margaret. Shortly afterward, her mom disappears, and Margaret sets out to solve the mystery.
Switching back to the 1912 era, the reader discovers that by a trick of fate, Davy and Ian wind up in the same prison camp and the story begins to twist and turn as more and more letters are revealed and more secrets disclosed.
Through the correspondence and interviews with people in 1940, who knew Margaret’s mother, the story is told and it is told with a good deal of humor in the back and forth letters, but the background love story is one of longing and tenderness, as well as secrets and deceptions. The eloquent correspondence of both couples exposes the actions of the characters that have changed their lives indelibly and have been carried with heavy hearts for decades.