Wednesday, 1 February 2017

100 Novels In Letters
Click on the image to go to the
challenge on Whatever I Think Of

My Long Longlist of Epistolary Fiction

As I found out a year ago, February is the Month of Letters and I gladly seize the opportunity to present four epistolary novels here on Edith’s Miscellany on the coming four Fridays plus another letter-based book on Lagraziana’s Kalliopeion. Of course, these five reviews won’t remain my only ones this year with a focus on this old literary genre because I signed up for Jamie Ghione’s Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017 on Whatever I Think Of (»»» see my common sign-up post for all this year's reading challenges) and I’m determined to treat myself to a few more fictional or fictionalised correspondences for it.

Being a great enthusiast of the old-fashioned (snail mail) letter, I confine myself to books written entirely or at least substantially in this form rather than modern emails, instant messages, memos, blogs, or diaries although it’s not always easy to draw a sharp line or even to find out before reading. Luckily, writers have been penning heaps of fictional letters to produce full-length novels since the late seventeenth century, many of them forgotten today or considered antiquated, and to my great joy they continue to do so adapting the genre to the realities of modern life.

There is an interesting and detailed list of contemporary epistolary novels on Wikipedia, but I preferred to make my own list largely based on my 29 Book Suggestions for the Month of Letters 2016. Admittedly, my selection of 100 is a bit arbitrary and includes several books about which I know nothing except that they are epistolary. Moreover, one fifth of the novels dates from before 1900 and isn’t eligible for review on Edith’s Miscellany according to my own rules. I include them nonetheless for the sake of “completeness” along with the novels in letters that I already wrote about in the past. My reviews for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017 will be from the remaining.

And here’s my chronological Longlist of 100 Novels in Letters
(to be completed with links to my reviews):
  1. Juan de Segura: Processo en cartas de amores. Juan de Segura, A Critical and Annotated Edition of this First Epistolary Novel (1548) together with an English Translation, ed. and trans. Edwin B. Place, original Spanish title: Processo en cartas de amores
  2. Gabriel-Joseph de Lavergne, comte de Guilleragues: Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1669), orignal French title: Les lettres portugaises
  3. Aphra Behn: Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1684)
  4. Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu: Persian Letters (1721), original French title: Lettres persanes
  5. Samuel Richardson: Clarissa or, The History of a Young Lady (1748)
  6. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Julie, or the New Heloise (1761), original French title: Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloïse
  7. Sophie von La Roche: The History of Lady Sophia Sternheim, Volume 1 and Volume 2 (1771), original German title: Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim
  8. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), original German title: Die Leiden des jungen Werther
  9. Ann Eliza Bleecker: The History of Maria Kittle (1779)
  10. Fanny Burney: Evelina. Or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World (1778)
  11. Pierre-Ambroise-François Choderlos de Laclos: Dangerous Liaisons (1782), original French title: Les Liaisons dangereuses
  12. Sophia Lee: The Recess (1785)
  13. Marianne Ehrmann: Amalie and Minna (1787), original German title: Amalie und Minna
  14. Sarah Wentworth Morton: The Power of Sympathy (1789)
  15. Ugo Foscolo: The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis (1802), original Italian title: Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis
  16. Caroline Pichler: Agathocles (1808), original German title: Agathokles
  17. Fyodor Dostoevsky: Poor Folk (1846), original Russian title: Бедные люди
  18. Jane Austen: Lady Susan (1794/1871)
  19. Lucy Hamilton Hooper: The Tsar's Window (1881)
  20. Peter Rosegger: The Earth and the Fullness Thereof (1900), original German title: Erdsegen»»» read my review from 2018
  21. José Maria de Eça de Queiros: Correspondence of Fradique Mendes (1900), original Portuguese title: Correspondência de Fradique Mendes 
  22. Laurence Housman: An Englishwoman's Love-letters (1900)
  23. Elisabeth von Heyking: The Letters Which Never Reached Him (1903), original German title: Briefe, die ihn nicht erreichten  »»» read my review from 2018
  24. Jack London & Anna Strunsky Walling: The Kempton-Wace Letters (1903)
  25. Elizabeth von Arnim: Fräulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther (1907)
  26. Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Colours: Extracts from the Letters of a Man Who Returned (1907), original German title of the complete novel: Die Briefe des Zurückgekehrten (1907)
  27. Ricarda Huch: The Last Summer (1910), original German title: Der letzte Sommer
  28. Else Lasker-Schüler: My Heart (1912), original German title: Mein Herz
    »»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017
  29. Vasily Vasilievich Rozanov: Fallen Leaves, Volume I and II (1913/1915), original Russian title: Опавшие листья
  30. Elizabeth Cooper: My Lady of the Chinese Courtyard (1914)
    »»» read my review from 2018
  31. Matilde Serao: Souls Divided (1914), original Italian title: Ella non rispose»»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2019
  32. Stefan Zweig: Letter from an Unknown Woman (1922), original German title: Brief einer Unbekannten   »»» read my short review from 2016 on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion
  33. François Mauriac: Vipers' Tangle (1932), original French title: Le Nœud de vipères
    read my review from 2018
  34. Marcelle Sauvageot: Commentary (1933), original French title: Commentaire
  35. Kathrine Kressmann Taylor: Address Unknown (1938)
  36. C. S. Lewis: The Screwtape Letters (1942)
  37. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Letter to a Hostage (1944), original French title: Lettre à un otage
  38. Ingeborg Bachmann: Letters to Felician (1946/1991), original German title: Briefe an Felician
    read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017
  39. Georges Simenon: Act of Passion (1947), original French title: Lettre à mon juge
  40. Thornton Wilder: The Ides of March (1948) »»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2019
  41. Marguerite Yourcenar: Memoirs of Hadrian (1951), original French title: Mémoires d’Hadrian
  42. Camilo José Cela: Mrs Caldwell Speaks to her Son (1953), original Spanish title: Mrs Caldwell habla con su hijo
  43. Bernard Binlin Dadié: An African in Paris (1959), original French title: Un Nègre à Paris
  44. Wolfgang Bauer: The Feverhead (1967), original German title: Der Fieberkopf
  45. Christopher Isherwood: A Meeting by the River (1967)
    »»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017
  46. Arno Schmidt: Bottom’s Dream (1970), original German title: Zettels Traum
  47. Natalia Ginzburg: Dear Michael (1973), original Italian title: Caro Michele
  48. Anne Stevenson: Correspondences. A Family History in Letters (1974)
  49. Hella S. Haasse: A Dangerous Affair or Daal-en-Bergish Letters (1976), original Dutch title: Een gevaarlijke verhouding of Daal-en-Bergse brieven
  50. Oswald Wynd: The Ginger Tree (1977)
  51. Elena Poniatowska: Dear Diego (1978), original Spanish title: Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela
  52. Mariama : So Long a Letter (1979), original French title: Une si longue lettre
    »»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017
  53. John Barth: Letters (1979)
  54. Miyamoto Teru: Kinshu. Autumn Brocade (1982), original Japanese title: 錦繍
    »»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017
  55. Alice Walker: The Color Purple (1982)
  56. Myriam Warner-Vieyra: Juletane (1982), original French title: Juletane
  57. Herbert Rosendorfer: Letters Back to Ancient China (1983), original German title: Briefe in die chinesische Vergangenheit
  58. Natalia Ginzburg: The City and the House (1984), original Italian title: La città e la casa
    »»» read my review from 2016
  59. Ana Castillo: The Mixquiahuala Letters (1986)
  60. Amos Oz: Black Box (1986), original Hebrew title: קופסה שחורה
    »»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017
  61. Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
  62. Edith Bruck: Letter to My Mother (1988), original Italian title: Lettera alla madre
  63. Lee Smith: Fair and Tender Ladies (1988)
  64. John Updike: S. (1988) »»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2019
  65. Nick Bantock: Griffin and Sabine. An Extraordinary Correspondence (1991)
  66. Hilda Hilst: Letters from a Seducer (1991), original Brazilian Portuguese title: Cartas de um sedutor
  67. Susanna Tamaro: Follow Your Heart (1994), original Italian title: Va dove ti porta il cuore
    »»» read my review from 2013
  68. Rashid al-Daif: Dear Mr. Kawabata (1995), original Arabic title: عزيزي السيد كواباتا
  69. Jostein Gaarder: Vita Brevis. A Letter to Saint Augustine (1996), original Norwegian title: Vita brevis »»» read my short review from 2017 on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion
  70. J. Nozipo Maraire: Zenzele. A Letter for My Daughter (1996)
  71. Dacia Maraini: The Violin (1997), original Italian title: Dolce per sé
  72. José Eduardo Agualusa: Creole (1997), original Portuguese title: Nação Crioula
  73. Hope Keshubi: Going Solo (1997)
  74. Carmen Martín Gaite: Variable Cloud (1997), original Spanish title: Nubosidad variable
  75. Alfredo Bryce Echenique: Tarzan's Tonsillitis (1998), original Spanish title: La amigdalitis de Tarzán
  76. Sylvia Iparraguirre: Tierra del Fuego (1998), original Spanish title: La Tierra del Fuego
    »»» read my review from 2016
  77. Stephen Chbosky: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999)
  78. Matthew Kneale: English Passengers (2000)
  79. George Plimpton: Pet Peeves or Whatever Happened to Doctor Rawff (2000)
  80. Gina Mercer: Parachute Silk (2001)
  81. Antonio Tabucchi: It's Getting Later All the Time (2001), original Italian title: Si sta facendo sempre più tardi
  82. Tiziano Terzoni: Letters Against War (2002), original Italian title: Lettere contro la guerra
  83. Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt: Oscar and the Lady in Pink (2002), original French title: Oscar et la Dame rose
  84. Luísa Coelho: Monique (2003), original Portuguese title: Monique »»» read my review from 2018
  85. Mikhail Pavlovich Shishkin: The Light and the Dark (2005), original Russian title: Письмовник
  86. Martin Amis: House of Meetings (2006)
  87. Ülo Mattheus: The Love of India (2006), original Estonian title: India armastus
  88. Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger (2008)
  89. Maya Angelou: Letter to My Daughter (2008)
  90. John Berger: From A to X. A Story in Letters (2008)
  91. Mo Yan: Frog (2009), original Chinese title: »»» read my review from 2018
  92. Nicola Barker: Burley Cross Postbox Theft (2010)
  93. Amélie Nothomb: Life Form (2010), original French title: Une forme de vie
  94. Jay Griffiths: A Love Letter From a Stray Moon (2011)
    »»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017
  95. Tatiana de Rosnay: The House I Loved (2011)
  96. Carlene Bauer: Frances and Bernard (2013)
  97. Yvette Walker: Letters to the End of Love (2013)
  98. Ava Dellaira: Love Letters to the Dead (2014)
  99. Iona Grey: Letters to the Lost (2015)
  100. Anne Youngson: Meet Me at the Museum (2018)
    »»» read my review for the Epistolary Reading Challenge 2019


  1. What a list! I have read 5 of them: 84 Charing Cross Road, The Color Purple, The Historian (she has a new novel coming out this year!), The White Tiger, and The Guernsey Literary...

    1. And I could easily have made it an even longer list! But then I "Monkishly" thought that 100 was a nice round number. Otherwise, I'd have had to find another 901 novels in letters to make it 1001 ;-).


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