Clearly I have a thing for characters who are fellow bibliophiles. In the case of Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase, that character is Roberta, and maybe it's a shared love of books, or maybe it was just Louise Walter's outstanding writing, but I found her to be entirely endearing. I think Roberta can best be described as "bookish." She works in a bookshop, lives a quiet life, and is generally unassuming. She loves collecting the letters and notes that she finds in used books, and she uses them to daydream about the lives of the people who leave their books behind.
One day, her father gifts her an antique suitcase that once belonged to her grandmother. In it, she finds a letter from her late grandfather. There's something strange about it though, as the letter was dated after her grandfather had died in the war. Roberta is baffled, and the mystery leads us into the second narrative in this story, that of Dorothea, Roberta's grandmother. Dorothea is unhappily married to a brutish man and forced to support herself during the war, which leads her to a fateful meeting with a charming soldier named Jan. Told through the past/present narrative frame (a style that I'm partial to), this book drew me in and kept me guessing as to the characters' secrets and keeping my fingers crossed for their happy endings. I loved the characters, I loved how easily the narrative flowed between Dorothea and Roberta, and I especially loved that the story was peppered with some of the notes and letters that Roberta stumbled across during her time in the bookshop. At times the story was heartbroken, but after finishing I felt a sense of peace. Recommended for fans of Kate Morton and Katherine Reay, and certainly a great pick for a women's book club!
Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5
Title: Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase
Author: Louise Walter
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014
Price: $13 from B&N
Source: Public Library