Book Review: Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Nina Sankovitch

Signed, Sealed, Delivered… focuses on reading letters – the joy felt when the letters are received and the nostalgia of finding the letters years and decades later.  Letters are separated into categories – secret letters, romantic love letters, letters used as evidence, letters as a window into the writers world, condolence letters, letters tying long-distance relationships together, letters with advice, last words, etc.  Letters are  therapeutic.  This is a a book about letters as a historical record – an appreciation of letters – not a “how-to write letters” book.

Sankovitch starts off the book with a story about how she found a trunk full of letters in an overgrown shed behind the brownstone that she and husband purchased.  As she read through the generations of letters, she finds a connection with the people written for, written about and written to.  It becomes an engrossing story about real people with real lives – different from hers but with a common address.  Letters leave blanks that the reader must fill in – not difficult if you are the original recipient, because presumably you have knowledge of the subjects discussed.  However, as a reader many decades later, you must fill-in the blanks yourself – what did he look like?  What did the house look like then?  Who were the neighbors, friends, servants…  What are they wearing, driving, reading?  Unlike a well written novel, every reader of that collection of letters  hears a different story.

The intrigue is that it is a one-sided story.  Presuming you save ALL of the letters you receive over a lifetime, it would be very difficult to also save the letters that you wrote.  The story preserved is the story of the letter writers heart and soul – not the recipients.  What if the only letter saved was Abelard’s letter of consolation?  Without Heloise’s response (and the previous correspondence) we would never know how truly in love they were.

I enjoyed this overview of historic letters – so many famous pieces of history that I did not know existed, for example the correspondence between Heloise and Abelard.  It was a fun and easy read.  It also served as a great starting place for an epistolary reading journey.

Title:              Signed, Sealed Delivered:  Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing
Author:        Nina Sankovitch
Date:             2015
Pages:           224 pages
ISBN:            145168715X
Difficulty:   4-Day*

*I am not a quick reader, and I do have a life that steals my attention away from books, postcards, and mail in general.  Use that as the gauge.

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