I thought the concept of this book sounded great - epistolary format, two women, two generations, two wars. The idea of exploring the effect of two wars on two generations that directly follow each other just sounded like such a great idea. What similar issues would they face on the home front, what would be different due to time and the evolution of warfare (obviously the Blitz and the targeting of the civilian population would be a huge change)? What would it be like to have lived through a war and loss only to watch your daughter face the same things? Additionally, there were comparisons to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which was such a sweet book. It was a bit quirky but I completely connected to the story and the character and was drawn in. Unfortunately, I think the comparisons were mostly made due to the war time setting and the epistolary nature of the narrative. This was more of a regular war romance, though I guess maybe the descriptions of the one character's college pranks could qualify as quirky (he was a University of Illinois grad, which may have been my favorite thing about the book - ILL-INI!)
Anyway, as the United Kingdom begins mobilizing in preparation for WWII, Margaret starts reconsidering her feelings for a male friend of hers, and realizes that he is more important to her after all. At the same time, she discovers that there is more to her mom's story than she thought after she reads an old letter her mom has hidden. Soon, Elspeth, her mom, is missing, and Margaret is trying to track down her family history. Meanwhile, the novel starts to focus on the letters that Elspeth has saved, and the story between Elspeth and David on the eve of World War I unfolds in their letters to each other. Elspeth is a young married poet from the Scottish Isle of Skye, and David is one of her American readers. They develop a correspondence which eventually leads to stronger feelings.
While there's nothing inherently wrong with the story, it's been done before. That's fine since lots of stories are similar to each other but the characters need to stand out and make me care for them. I didn't care for the characters that much - they were all rather bland. Since the Amazon description describes "a sweeping story," I wanted to be swept away. Unfortunately, the main part of the story was David and Elspeth so even though Brockmole could have done so much comparing the way the people faced the two wars, I didn't feel like much attention was paid to that later period. In fact, while David and Elspeth's love story already wasn't that exciting, Margaret's was less than lukewarm. I really got the impression that she only decided she was in love with this guy because he was going to war. I'm sure that was a common reaction at the time but I think I was expecting something more along the lines of parallel story lines rather than one main storyline told over an extended period of time. I'm not sure if I explained this that well. Either way, the Margaret part of the story was very weak, and the Elspeth story wasn't strong enough to make this stand out, so rather than being an epic romance, it just felt melodramatic and sappy. It's really disappointing, too, because I was looking forward to reading this, and the concept had so much potential.