Epistolary Novels

shelved under Fiction

Epistolary novels are written as a series of documents. The documents can be newspaper clippings, blog entries, diary entries, letters and other documents are sometimes used. These wonderful titles use letters as their means to tell the tale.


84, Charing Cross Road

by Helene Hanff

Melanie Rehak says:

Though the title is the address of a bookshop in London, the contents of this letter collection were mostly written by Helene Hanff, a freelance writer who lived on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. An avid reader, she first wrote to Marks & Co, located on Charing Cross Road, in 1949, in search of some of her favorite titles. What followed was a twenty-year correspondence between her and the staff of the bookshop, the head book-dealer in particular, that took them through rationing (she sent care packages of food and stockings though she had never met the staff), and all the high and low times that come along with the writing life. Along with an exquisite portrayal of a friendship formed and maintained via the postal service, it gives a great sense of life in New York (and London) in those years.


Ella Minnow Pea in Letters

by Mark Dunn

Kitten says:

I loved this book! I thought the premise was creative and fun. To get too philosophical, I suppose it could be a great example of how rigidity in rules, and not being willing to view life in any other way, leads to destruction of society. But it is a fun read and I've recommended it to many people.


Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence

by Nick Bantock

Kaye Mitchell from Austin, Texas says:

I read this a long time ago but the memory of it still haunts me — although few recollections remain. This I know, in reading it I felt like I was prying. There were actual envelopes and notes between Griffin & Sabine and from those clues, one had to devise the developing story. It was like coming upon a box of saved private messages. I'm not sure what to think about it except when I, years later, came across a box of Griffin & Sabine gift cards; I had to buy them for sentimental reasons. I would have never gotten rid of the books but curiously they are missing, as though they never really existed except in my imagination.


The Screwtape Letters

by C. S. Lewis

Lise M. Quintana says:

The Screwtape Letters is both C. S. Lewis' argument for Christianity and a great window into the the mind of post-war morality. The book is a series of letters from Screwtape, a demon and assistant to "Our Father Below" to Wormwood, his nephew. Wormwood has been charged with corrupting a single soul, and Screwtape's letters talk about how to best achieve that and berate Wormwood for his many mistakes. The book is conversational and can be funny in its portrayal of human weaknesses from a demon's point of view, but Lewis' ideas about what constitutes a good Christian are always at the forefront. I am a fan of Lewis' other religious books (Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity) but this one isn't as preachy or judgmental. The increasingly angry tone of the letters as Wormwood's "victim" eludes him can be funny in a dated kind of way. If you ever wanted to know more about the mind of the man who wrote the Narnia books but didn't really want him to preach at you... this is the place to start.


Les Liaisons Dangereuses

by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Monera from Menlo Park, CA says:

I read this book because John Malkovich is very sexy, especially in this film. I also love the power play and that it is written in letter format. To live in a world in which people wrote long letters. Intellectually erotic.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Annie Barrows, Mary Ann Shaffer

Denise Fawcett Facey says:

Set in the Channel Islands during 1946, the entire novel is a series of letters, primarily between a London newspaper columnist and the members of the literary society. The letters are beautifully written, nicely showcasing the lost art of letter-writing, while providing full yet nuanced character development. Laced with humor, the letters are at times laugh-out-loud funny. Yet, filled with their writers' experiences during the German occupation, they are also often quite poignant. This book is a gem worthy of reading on its own and particularly good for discussion groups.