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The Lost Letters of William Woolf is the warm, wonderful and beautifully rendered debut novel from Irish writer Helen Cullen. We’re delighted to welcome Helen to the Eason blog to tell us about how the years she spent in Dublin inspired a pivotal section of her book, which is also part of Sinead and Rick’s Summer Must Reads selection.
"Although my debut novel, The Lost Letters of William Woolf, is predominantly set in East London, Dublin lives in the very heart of the story. In the book, one of the main characters, an Irishwoman named Winter, writes letters to the great love whom she has never met and tells him about the life she loved in Dublin before she emigrated to London.
William is a letter detective in the Dead Letters Depot where he solves the mysteries of undelivered letters; the mystery of Winter becomes the most important one of his career and ultimately the clues lead him a merry dance through the streets of Dublin.
As an Irish writer who spent most of my adult life in Dublin town before I too moved to London, it was such a joy to take the characters of my novel home and introduce them to much about the city that I love.
Although the novel is entirely a work of fiction, I was able to draw upon my memories of some of my own favourite places in the city and imagine new stories around them. Walking down Grafton Street, browsing in the Market Arcade on George’s Street, vintage clothes shopping in Temple Bar, catching the bus from Stephen’s Green to Donnybrook, watching the Liffey from the Ha’penny Bridge, Friday night pints in The Long Hall pub, sessions in Whelan’s, afternoon tea in the Central Hotel…all of these wonderful ways to fill a day in Dublin, and more, found their way into the pages of the novel.
When I considered how I could give William a quintessential Dublin experience, however, there was one person I knew he had to encounter: The King of Radio, Larry Gogan. One of my favourites scenes in the entire book to write was when William discovers the 2FM Roadcaster and Larry doing the Just A Minute Quiz at Stephen’s Green. I was Larry’s broadcast assistant for many years before I moved to London and so it was such a privilege to have this opportunity to immortalise him in the pages of my novel. I hope you think I’ve done him justice!
One of the greatest tests of the novel will be if Irish folks recognise the Dublin of my novel as their own capital city. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and will look forward to re-visiting all the places mentioned in the book very soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading William’s adventure through Dublin as much as I enjoyed writing it!"
Lost letters have only one hope for survival... Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries: Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names - they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers. When William discovers letters addressed simply to 'My Great Love' his work takes on new meaning. Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn't met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn't know were possible.