Posts Tagged ‘Simon Garfield’

I’ve finally finished “To The Letter” by Simon Garfield, despite being given it for Christmas in 2013 and I started in February 2014!

“To The Letter” by Simon Garfield

It’s a non-fiction book about letter-writing and how it’s evolved over time. Obviously letter-writing has started to decline as the use of the Internet increased – even emails are now being left behind by social media.

The book spends a lot of time talking about letters between noted writers and poets of their time. It’s intersected with images of letters and you can see the differing styles of handwriting.

It’s sort of interesting and covers a reasonable amount of history but it took me so long to get through it! There were the odd few interesting bits through it, but the most interesting section was the last one where Garfield talks about the Internet taking over!

However, I quite enjoyed the letters printed through the book between the solider Chris and his sweetheart Bessie during their seperation during the Second World War: they seemed genuine, less pretentious and more realistic than some of the others mentioned in the book (especially the ones between famous writers).

I’ve always quite liked writing letters: it feels more personal and more structured than emails. I always felt more honest by writing a letter, maybe that’s why love letters work so well. It’s sad that we don’t write letters so much any more and it’s becoming a lost art, as Garfield says.

As a result, I thought this would a be good book to read and I was excited when I was given it. It’s just a shame I didn’t massively enjoy this book: it’s rather dry and dull, especially in the first half. I probably wouldn’t read it again because the reality is that it’s just not that “witty” as promised. I’m not sure why people have raved about it?!

I’m giving it 5/10 because it had some good bits but the fact it took so long for me to plough through it has put me off!


“Unlike the ink available in the late eighteenth century, which was made from squid, soot and turpentine, Shakespeare’s fluid derived predominantly from ground ‘gall nuts’, the product of the gall fly on oak trees. These would then be soaked in red wine, and mixed with iron sulphate and gum Arabic while being dried in the sun. A cut-down goose quill was the favoured writing tool, and the ink would be dried on the parchment or rough paper by dusting with a fine powder of ‘pounce’, made from pumice stone or salt; a letter would thus be judged ‘done and dusted'”.

– “To the Letter” by Simon Garfield