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  • Writer's picturePayton Tilley

"Dearest Josephine" Review

All of this would be simpler if I were a man in a book, for in stories, regardless of their trial, do find resolution and clarity in the end. Heroes complete their quests. Love draws people together despite impossibilities. And there is meaning to be found in agony and hope.

Perhaps stories are the best of us. Perhaps words were intended to capture our agony and hope and give them that meaning we so crave." ~ Caroline George

Very rarely, do I read a book that summons thoughts and feelings so strong within me. Rarer still, does a book almost relate to me in a way that is terrifying and comforting all at once. "Dearest Josephine" by Caroline George was a novel that had me enthralled from the prose; the letters, emails, and texts that told the story. Her writing was so vivid and drenched in emotions and poetic longings. The whole premise has a warm English welcome with human questions inside, and the age old "finding life"; yet wrapped within a mysterious premise all its own.

Josephine has struggled through her father's death and runs back to a friendship she once abandoned for a boy that proved his real worth. Upon reconnecting, Josie is whisked to an English manor her father had bought, where she soon discovers letters written to her.

But from 1821.

We follow her as she unveils Elias, the letter writing illegitimate boy, who once struggled with his own life and unrequited hope and love But, from his words and novel she finds, he claims to have met her. All those years before.

Elias was so real and struggled so long in silence. He embodied inadequacies and grief over losing someone in death, and feeling. He was so morally strong it was an encouragement and he cared so deeply, it touched me. Josie was challenged over and over to have her own thoughts on reality and life questioned and changed. She messed up, fell in love, lost, grieved death, and dealt with friends that came so close to her heart. (Don't even get me started on their subtle actions that each character did over and over Ms. George added for depth. Or maybe she didn't, and I just loved it and noticed it. Though, I think she did.)

As I stated, upon cracking this book's spine, I realized this book would attack me in so many ways. It's as if God knew I needed to read it. It reminded me of some struggles and questions I have on life, love, ambition, and the value of trying over and over...hoping and living. Doing what's right and loving no matter what. Caroline George tackled the cruel beauty of falling for fictional people or the wrong people. (romantically and platonic) She also brought the cold reality of loving and losing people you once envisioned would be beside you forever. Or the betrayal of family and friends leaving you to fight alone. And the gifts God sends us of people who will stay by us and who we need during certain times. (If anyone ever reads my copy they will find it to look like a marked up journal)

Surrounding Josie, Oliver, Faith, and Elias, was a cloud of dealing with grief and disappointment. The beauty of this book was how we should love even when it hurts also illustrates knowing when to let go and believing that God has a purpose in every fog stained season we leave, or sun bathed season.

Tears rose to my eyes so so many times, as I mourned the losses the characters suffered and learned heartbreaking truths. (Which you need to understand, crying over a book for me is rare) I laughed at the realistic texts between Josie and her friends. I rolled my eyes at ridiculous actions taken by selfish characters. And my heart warmed at the way-though fiction-reality, in its beauty and hideousness, showed in every chapter and every sentence.

There is darkness, but there is light. There is love, but there is heartbreak. There are dreams, but nightmares and reality also live. There is peace, but there are aches and worries. There is a God and there is purpose. He is the ultimate Life and Love.

Caroline George crushed my heart, twisted it with thoughts I near wish I had left alone, yet...her words and her characters challenged me and brought me so many truths to cling to. So much hope and growth, the way the human heart is always brought forward through literature. Thank you. "Dearest Josephine" will now be as dear to me as she was to Elias and Cadwallader Manor.

Some Favorite Quotes~

"People who laugh at themselves make superb company."

"Not everyone who loves each other ends up together, and that's okay."

"Words, more so the authoring of them-demand our bareness, do they not? My headmaster once said, "We take from books what we bring to them", meaning books are but reflections of us."

"I've read too many novels to believe in finality, for at the end of the story, there is a lot more story."

"But there comes a point in all our lives where we must choose how we're going to move forward, whether to long for what we don't have-to lean on our own crutches-or embrace what's already around us."

"But sometimes the right girl did end up with the right boy. Sometimes their love won."

"Nobody knows what they are doing. We just put our best foot forward and give life a go."

"Perhaps we never stop loving someone. We just learn to move forward. To live without them because of them."

"For a moment with you, I wait an eternity."

So many other snippets from this beautiful book are underlined but those are the ones I felt pressed to share today. I hope one touched you as it did me. And once more, a standing ovation for this heartfelt brutal, but masterpiece novel by Caroline George.

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