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The Book of Love Letters: Canadian Kinship, Friendship, and Romance

by Paul and Audrey Grescoe

Paul and Audrey Grescoe’s lively and emotional new collection, The Book of Love Letters, is like a big box of the very best chocolate. The letters are rich with emotion and wit, but they should be savoured in a leisurely manner: if you binge on them, you may feel a little queasy.

The Grescoes, who have previously compiled two other collections, The Book of Letters and The Book of War Letters, this time give us letters between lovers, friends, parents and children, and siblings. There is John Diefenbaker’s mother complimenting him on his performance in Question Period: “You sure gave those babies the right kind of dope.” And Hugh MacLennan telling his deceased father in a ghostly letter that a publisher might buy Barometer Rising, his first novel.

There’s sex too, even if it is often hiding between the lines. Eulalie Rochon writes to her husband right after giving birth to their seventh child. The baby is lovely, although her toes seem cold: “And how are you feeling my darling? Anxious for me to be warming your toes too?” Eric Harrison tells his Elizabeth: “And when it comes to plain physical desire, then in this spring season … I have known it like a pain and writhed between my blankets with ache of it.” Whereas Constance Wrigley sends a haiku by e-mail: “Red shirt in my bed/Evokes sensation of you/Can’t replace your touch.”

Read this book in bed to avoid being tempted to gobble it down so fast that you get indigestion. If you’re by yourself you’ll happily drift off to sleep after reading one or two letters, but if you’re reading it aloud to someone else, the stage may be set for some interesting activities that distract from reading. Afterwards, you may be inspired to write your own love letters.