Book Review · Books

Letters of Note: Grief by Shaun Usher [BOOK REVIEW]

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to participate on the readalong for Letters of Note: Grief. Huge thank you to the team at Tandem as well as the publisher Canongate Books for sending me a copy of the book to read and review!

About The Book:

Publisher: Canongate Books

Pages: 130

Format I read it in: Paperback

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US


Letters of Note started as a website where Shaun Usher was sharing people’s letters. Now it is a collection of the world’s most inspiring, compulsive and powerful letters, curated into different books based on their topic.

My Thoughts:

When I signed up for the readalong, I didn’t know which topic I will get, and when I got grief, I was a bit let down. I thought to myself – “another book that is sad”. Now, looking back, I am grateful I have read this book, as it allowed me to get closer to my grief and feel emotions I deliberately refused to feel. It also gave me a bit of comfort, an unexpected hug, one of those that you didn’t know you needed.

Through the 31 letters, I felt different people’s sadness of losing someone. I read words of sympathy, empathy, love and joy. For such a short book, it made me feel so much!

My favourite letter is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s letter to his grandma, when his grandpa died. My grandpa’s death is still so painful to me – even though it’s been a couple of years now. He died on Christmas Eve, and I never got the chance to say goodbye. On my last visit, I was certain I would see him again. A year later, my grandma passed away as well, and the pain stacked itself on top of the pain I was already feeling.

Is that how grief works?

We just keep stacking pain on top of each other like tower blocks through the years… waiting for it to collapse on us? Does it ever go away, or do we always carry it with ourselves? I guess only time will tell…

“It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined.”

I am very grateful for this book. Being able to dive into how other people feel helped me understand my emotions better. Even though, we are never quite ready for grief, and we never fully heal. But without knowing painand sadness, how will we ever really know happiness?



About The Author:

Shaun Usher was born in St. Albans in 1978 and currently lives in Wilmslow with his wife and two sons. He is the sole custodian of the popular blog, Letters of Note, a much-anticipated book of which is to be published in October 2013 following lengthy periods of hair-pulling and despair. His obsession with correspondence is particularly interesting given that he regularly receives–and more often than not doesn’t reply to–abuse from exasperated friends and family due to his apparent inability to return their calls, emails, and, on very rare occasions, letters. His second book is underway.

Social Media:
Instagram | Twitter

Social Media:
| WishlistKo-fi | FacebookTwitterGoodreadsInstagramPinterest |

Book Review · Books

Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life by Alex Christofi [BOOK REVIEW]


If you, just like me, are a fan of Dostoevsky’s work, you will definitely enjoy Dostoevsky in Love:An Intimate Life. And even if you haven’t read any of his books, you’ll learn about what it felt like living in 19th century Russia (and other European countries), and I am certain that upon reading this, you’ll go and grab one of Dostoevsky’s books.


Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life is a detailed biography of the life of Dostoevsky, mixed with a bit of creative freedom. Alex Christofi tells the story of Dostoevsky’s life using quotes from Dostoevsky’s books, as well as from letters and diaries.

My Thoughts:

It’s not very often I read biographies. If I read a biography, it has to be from someone I know a lot about and am curious about. I was going to say that it’s also from people I really admire, but I love reading biographies about serial killers, so maybe that’s not the best statement to put in words. However, from all the biographies I’ve read, this one certainly jumps at the top of my list, firstly because of its uniqueness. Alex Christofi not only shows us the life of Dostoevsky and his works, but he digs much deeper than that. We get to know Dostoevsky on a very personal level, able to read his thoughts, re-live his experiences and witness his many tragedies in life and few of his moments of happiness.

Starting with his mock execution, we immediately get a glimpse of the terror Dostoevsky goes through. I can only imagine how that experience can leave a mark on you – for life. Then we follow his years in prison, his illness, his romantic life and his gambling addiction. The joy he experiences when his first child is born, and the pain he suffers when many people he loves keep dying around him.

“Suffering and pain are always mandatory for broad minds and deep hearts. Truly great people, it seems to me, should feel great sadness on this earth.”

I went into Dostoevsky in Love: An Intimate Life with only a basic knowledge of Dostoevsky’s life, but a more broader knowledge of his works.

And I know now, where this genius has come from.

He always had the truly remarkable gift to be able to write, but his experiences in life certainly made him understand pain, grief, human psychology and interaction on such a deeper level, in a way that not many people can truly comprehend. This biography not only made me much more understanding of his life, but also made me eager to re-read all his works now, knowing what I know about his life. And not only his life, but also the period he lived in as well, the politics, the social groups of authors and people’s interactions with one another.

“Everywhere in Russia there have always been, and always will be certain strange individuals who, while humble and by no means lazy, are destined to be broke for ever.”

I admire Alex Christofi for his detailed research and the work he put into this book.

He was able to combine extracts from Dostoevsky’s books into experiences that Dostoevsky lived through. And connect the events with when the books were written. I had mixed feelings on this creative freedom at first, but very soon I started to enjoy it, and it brought the writer and the works closer together in my world. We can feel moments, when an event would happen to Dostoevsky, and how this reflects in his books. How it inspired him to start a book, how a character matches a person from his life. I really wished that we read more about the time he was writing “Crime and Punishment”. It was mentioned a lot of times, but it never was associated with any moment in his life. I am wondering about how this book came to be, and the initial response it received from the public.

There’s a reason why Dostoevsky is such an important person in the world literature. Why many of his books are classics and are being read and studied in schools even today. He has brought a view on psychology and sociology through fiction. There is yet an author to try and create something as remarkable as what Dostoevsky did in his time.

“If we take the trouble to honour the dead, perhaps one day someone will remember us.”

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US

Social Media:
| WishlistKo-fi | FacebookTwitterGoodreadsInstagramPinterest |