Author of the Month: Kayte Nunn
In three words, describe to us your novel:
Impossible love story.
The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant explores what happens when a cache of unsent letters penned by Esther Durrant during her time at an isolated mental asylum is found sixty years later by the free-spirited Rachel Parker who makes it her mission to track down the intended recipient thus setting in motion a chain of events that threatens to expose secrets that’ve been buried for many decades. What was the inspiration for this story arc?
My great-grandmother was admitted to a mental asylum in the 1930s in Britain, suffering from post-natal depression. It was a source of great shame to my grandfather; he was deeply affected by the loss of his mother at a young age and almost never spoke of it. I recently learned that she never left, dying there many years later, something that struck me as desperately sad. I also read of the fact that, up until the early 1950s a husband or father could have their wife or daughter admitted to an asylum without them having been examined by a doctor, which I found horrifying. These two things were the catalyst for this novel.
The revelation of exposing long-buried secrets poses many moral challenges, most notably that those secrets belong with the secret-holders. What was the most challenging aspect of writing The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant?
To ensure that the character of Rachel is a sympathetic one, for as you say, she uncovers the letters and reads them and acts on them – additionally she reveals another character’s secret as well, and the keeper of that secret is very unhappy at her interference.
What do you think will most endear the book to your readers?
If it takes them on an emotional journey, and they can empathise with the dilemmas and situations that the characters face, find the characters three-dimensional and believable then hopefully that will make it a memorable read.
What led you on the path of storytelling?
I’m a life-long lover of stories and have always been a voracious reader. For many years there was a small voice in my head telling me that I should write; one day I summoned the courage to listen to it and am so pleased I did – it feels like what I was put here to do.
Is there an author who you particularly admire and what aspect of their work/life/personality has inspired that admiration?
I have recently discovered Sarah Winman’s books, and they are everything I love in a story – beautifully written, subtle and magical. To evoke intense emotion and connection with fictional characters is a great skill, and she does it so incredibly well.
The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant
A cache of unsent love letters from the 1950s is found in a suitcase on a remote island in this mysterious love story by top ten bestselling author, Kayte Nunn
1951. Esther Durrant, a young mother, is committed to an isolated mental asylum by her husband. Run by a pioneering psychiatrist, the hospital is at first Esther’s prison but soon becomes her refuge.
2018. Free-spirited marine scientist Rachel Parker embarks on a research posting in the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast. When a violent storm forces her to take shelter on a far-flung island, she discovers a collection of hidden love letters. Captivated by their passion and tenderness, Rachel determines to track down the intended recipient.
Meanwhile, in London, Eve is helping her grandmother, a renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs. When she is contacted by Rachel, it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to reveal secrets kept buried for more than sixty years.
The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant is a deeply atmospheric, resonant novel that charts the heart’s wild places, choices and consequences. If you love Elizabeth Gilbert and Kate Morton you will devour this book.
About the Author:
Kayte Nunn is a former book and magazine editor, and the author of two contemporary novels, ROSE’S VINTAGE and ANGEL’S SHARE. THE BOTANIST’S DAUGHTER was Kayte’s first novel of transporting historical fiction, followed by THE FORGOTTEN LETTERS OF ESTHER DURRANT, set largely in the atmospheric Isles of Scilly. If you would like to see the wonderful images inspired by the book, Kayte’s Pinterest page is here or you can find her at her website.