Cover image for Letter from a stranger : [a novel]
Title:
Letter from a stranger : [a novel]
Author:
Bradford, Barbara Taylor, 1933-
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [2012]

©2012
Physical Description:
422 pages ; 25 cm
Summary:
When award-winning film maker Justine Nolan returns to her beautiful childhood home, she is intrigued by an envelope she finds in her absent mother's post. But the letter inside contains a shocking revelation. If genuine it will change everything she believes about her family's recent history, her mother and her adored grandmother, Gabriele.
General Note:
Subtitle from cover.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780312631680

9780312631697
Format :
Book

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On Order

Summary

Summary

Justine Nolan is a documentary film maker who lost her beloved grandmother a decade ago--the person who was the only source of love and comfort in her life. Her own mother Deborah had always been distant and uninvolved, following her own agenda in pursuit of her career as an interior designer. But when Justine inadvertently opens a letter addressed to her mother, she discovers that not only is her grandmother Gabri alive, but that Deborah has deliberately estranged the family from her for all these years. Justine's search for her grandmother takes her to Istanbul where she begins to uncover the family's secrets that stretch all the way back to World War II. As the layers of deception peel away, Justine begins to understand a woman she never really knew...and she begins to ask questions about the true desires of her own heart.


Author Notes

Barbara Taylor Bradford was born in Upper Armley, Leeds, in Yorkshire on May 10, 1933. At the age of fifteen, she was working as a typist for the Yorkshire Evening Post. After six months, she was promoted to cub reporter in the newsroom. At eighteen, she became the newspaper's Woman's Page Editor and at twenty, she headed for London where she became Fashion Editor of the magazine Woman's Own. She also reported for the London Evening News, Today Magazine and other publications, covering everything from crime to show business. In 1961, she met her future husband Robert Bradford and they were married in 1963. After they married, they moved to the United States and she began writing a syndicated column, Designing Woman. The column was published for twelve years and received several awards.

Her debut novel, A Woman of Substance, was published in 1979 and she has since written over 20 novels. Many of her novels have been made into television mini-series including A Woman of Substance, Voice of the Heart, Act of Will, Everything to Gain and A Secret Affair. She also wrote children's books and eight books on decorating.

She has received numerous awards for her work including the Matrix Award from New York Women in Communication Inc in 1985, the City of Hope's Spirit of Life Award in 1995, the Five Towns Music and Art Foundation's Award of Achievement for outstanding accomplishments in the field of Literature in 1997 and the British Excellence Award in 1998. She was inducted into the Matrix Hall of Fame in 1998 and into the Writers Hall of Fame of America in 2003. In 2007, she was awarded an OBE (The Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II for her contributions to Literature. She is a member of the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress. She is also involved in several charity projects such as Literacy Partners and the Police Athletic League of New York City. She made the New York Times Best Seller List in 2014 with her title Cavendon Hall.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

International best-seller Bradford's latest novel takes readers into the sights and sounds of contemporary Istanbul, where documentary filmmaker Justine Nolan unravels a family mystery that kept her and her twin, Richard, apart from their grandmother Gabrielle, whom they believe is dead, for a decade. When Justine learns from her grandmother's friend Anita not only that Gabrielle is alive but also that their mother drove her away, she immediately sets out to find her. Once reunited, her grandmother presents Justine with her childhood journal, which reveals the hidden fact that she is Jewish and survived the Holocaust. As she discovers how her grandmother's experiences shaped their fractured family and explores eclectic Istanbul with an eye to making a documentary, Justine falls in love with Anita's debonair grandson. Bradford marshals a storm of coincidences to advance her complicated story, which pushes the limits of believability. However, every novel from this acclaimed and beloved author is avidly read, and its engrossing historical dimension, family traumas, romance, and vivid setting will prove irresistible. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The latest (her twenty-seventh) by mega-popular Bradford will be energetically promoted in print and media and is sure to draw readers in droves.--Walker, Aleksandra Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Bradford's latest (after Playing the Game) is a multigenerational tale set in Connecticut's exclusive Litchfield Hills, exotic Istanbul, uptown New York, and WWII Germany. Filmmaker Justine Nolan, 32, cuts a sympathetic figure despite being tall, blonde, and successful, because all she's ever wanted is to enjoy the loving family she was deprived of by the death of her father, her mother's manipulations, and the disappearance of her beloved grandmother, Gabriele. When Justine opens a letter stating that Gabriele is alive and well in Istanbul, Justine jets off to find her. She reconnects with Gabriele and meets Gabriele's lifelong friend, Anita, along with Anita's handsome and savvy grandson, Michael. At this point, Gabriele takes over as heroine, revealing her secret past through diary excerpts. Reading about Gabriele's trials in Nazi Germany, Justine discovers the extent of her mother's deceptions, the depth of her grandmother's suffering, and something about herself as well. In want or in luxury, Bradford characters live in style, from white clapboard houses in Connecticut to Turkish villas overlooking the Bosphorus. Gardens, food, clothing, and accessories-everything in Bradford's world shows taste. If the plot turns simplistic at times, loyal fans will still tear up at the descriptions of enduring friendship and familial love. Agent: Bradford Enterprises. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Excerpts

Excerpts

One     The view from the second-floor terrace was panoramic, and breathtaking. Justine Nolan, who knew it well, was nevertheless startled when she saw it even after a short absence, and today was no exception. She leaned against the white-painted wooden railings, gazing out at the sweeping line of the Litchfield Hills flowing toward the distant horizon. Their thickly wooded slopes rolled down to verdant meadows; beyond them Lake Waramaug, set deeply in the valley, shimmered in the sunlight like a great swathe of fabric cut from cloth of silver. As usual, Justine caught her breath, filled with intense pleasure that she was back at Indian Ridge, the house where she had grown up and spent much of her life. It was a clear bright day, with a blue sky and bountiful clouds, but there was a snap in the wind, a hint of winter still, and it was cold for April. Shivering, Justine wrapped her heavy-knit red jacket around her body as she continued to devour the view ... the white clapboard houses, so typical of Connecticut, dotted here and there on some of the meadows, and to her right, set against a stand of dark green trees, three silos and two red barns grouped together in a distant field. They had been there for as long as she could remember, and were a much-loved and familiar sight. Unexpectedly, a flock of birds swept past her, unusually close to the railings, and she blinked, startled by them. They soared upward in a vee, a perfect formation and quite beautiful. She stared after them as they flew higher and higher into the haze of blue, and then she turned around and went back into the house. Picking up her overnight bag, which she had dropped on the landing a few minutes earlier, Justine carried it into her bedroom and immediately unpacked, putting away sweaters, trousers, shoes, and her toilet bag. Ever since childhood she had been neat, very tidy in her habits, and it was her nature to be well organized. She hated clutter, which had to be avoided at all cost. Glancing around the bedroom, smiling to herself, she experienced a sudden rush of happiness. She loved this room, and the entire house.... Some of her happiest times had been spent here at Indian Ridge, especially when her father was still alive. She and her twin had adored him. She was glad her mother had kept the house, and that she and her brother Richard could continue to use it at weekends, as well as for long stretches in the summer. It was their mutual escape hatch, a safe haven, and a place where they could relax from their busy schedules in New York. For the past month Justine had stayed in Manhattan, working on the last stage of her newest documentary about Jean-Marc Breton, the world's greatest living artist, supervising the cutting with the director and the film's editor. It had been arduous, long days and nights of work, hours and hours and hours filled with tension, stress, anxiety, good and bad surprises, friction at times, and some disappointments. But when they had viewed the final cut, and not without some trepidation, they had been jubilant. The film, which they had considered to be problematical right from the first day of shooting because of the temperament and dictatorial attitude of their subject, had turned out to be good. Very, very good in fact, much to their collective relief. Now Justine prayed that the network would feel the same when she screened it for them next week. Miranda Evans, the head of documentaries for Cable News International, would view it with total detachment, which always pleased Justine and her team. Miranda brought no prejudices or preconceived ideas into the screening room, which was why Justine trusted her judgment. That impartiality was a rare quality. Miranda had believed in her right from the start, and had funded most of the blood diamonds documentary, another tough subject. Suddenly, worry edged into her mind. She took a deep breath and pushed it away. The film was excellent, and it was the final cut . And that was that. She shook her head, grimaced to herself, wished she could let go of a project the moment it was at an end. But she couldn't; it always took her time to move on. And then she automatically went into a different mode, was filled with deflation, anxiety, and a sense of loss. She had mentioned this to Richard last night, and he had started to laugh, understanding exactly what she meant. Her twin and she were very much alike. He had pointed out that she was going up to the house to mentally and physically replenish herself, and fresh and exciting ideas would soon pop into her head when she was completely rested. And with that he had ended their phone call on a somewhat teasing note. He's right, of course, she decided, as she went out of her bedroom and down the stairs. Nobody knows me like he does, just as I know him inside out. She felt a small trickle of sadness running through her when she thought of Richard's wife, Pamela, who had died two years ago of cancer. To the outside world Richard was calm, strong and stoical, in control, but she knew how heartbroken he was inside. He kept up a good front, and plowed on doggedly, because of his five-year-old daughter, Daisy. Justine planned to look after them both this weekend, mothering one, and being a loving companion to the other. *   *   * At the bottom of the staircase Justine turned right, then walked toward the small sitting room overlooking the lawn, which she also used as an office, mostly to do the household accounts and bookkeeping. She had settled Daisy in there when they had arrived from New York half an hour ago, and her niece was still sitting at the desk with her box of crayons and coloring book spread out before her. Kim, the nanny, had the weekend off, and Tita, one of the housekeepers, was hovering over her, encouraging her to use as many crayons as she wanted. "All the colors of the rainbow," Tita was saying, her voice loving. Afternoon sunshine was streaming into the room and Daisy's pale blond curls shimmered in the light. What a lovely child she is, Justine thought, adorable in a variety of different ways, and it's so hard not to spoil her. Justine couldn't help smiling to herself as she watched Tita being so attentive to Daisy, helping her. Tita and her sister, Pearl, loved Daisy as if she were their own, and, in a sense, she was. The two women had lived and worked at Indian Ridge for years and were part of the family by now. Justine and Richard had grown up with them, and they appreciated everything the two of them did to keep the house, the gallery, and their work studios in tip-top shape. They considered themselves blessed to have Tita and Pearl, whom Richard deemed to be the salt of the earth. Stepping into the room, Justine said, "What are you coloring, Daisy?" Daisy and Tita both turned around on hearing Justine's voice, and Daisy explained, "It's a vase of flowers, Auntie Juju." "She takes after her father." Tita grinned. "She's got that talent he's had since he was a boy." A small smile struck Justine's face, and then she laughed. "Unlike the two of us! We weren't very good painters, were we? Mine were a series of giant blotches." Tita joined in her laughter. "And mine, too, and there was more paint on me than the canvas." Daisy, staring intently at her aunt, said, "How much does it cost to go there?" "To go where, darling?" " To Heaven. I want to take my picture to Mommy. I'm doing it for her. I've got a lot of quarters in my piggy bank. Maybe ten dollars. It's a big pig." Justine was unable to speak for a moment. Her throat was suddenly constricted. Swallowing several times, she finally managed to say, "It's a bit more than that, I think." "Oh." Daisy nodded, pursed her lips. "I'll have to get some more quarters then. I'll keep the picture for Mommy, and take it to her later. When I've saved up." "That's right." Justine's low voice sounded hoarse. To her relief Daisy turned back to her coloring book, her blond head bent over it once more in concentration. The two women exchanged glances. Tita was on the verge of tears, her dark eyes stricken. She was biting her bottom lip, struggling for control. Clearing her throat, Justine said, "Come on, Tita, let's go and plan the picnic for tomorrow." "A picnic!" The five-year-old swung her head, her bright blue eyes suddenly sparkling. "In the gazeboat?" " Gazebo, darling," Justine corrected gently. "And yes, it will be there, weather permitting. And guess what, Auntie Jo is coming with Simon." "Oh goody! Simon's my bestest friend." "We'll be in the kitchen if you need us for anything, Daisy." Justine beckoned to Tita, who almost ran out of the room ahead of her; she followed in concern. *   *   * Tita was clutching the sink, hunched over into herself, still fighting the tears. Crossing the kitchen quickly, understanding exactly how she felt, Justine put her arms around Tita and held her close. "I know, I know, it's hard. Some of the things she comes out with take my breath away, tear me apart, and Richard too. But suddenly she brightens up, and you know that, Tita. Especially if she's distracted. And she does forget." "Yes ... but I suffer for her. I can't help it." "We've got to keep her busy, Tita. Look how she reacted when I mentioned the picnic and Simon. And I've learned a lot from Kim, who packs her days with activities, keeps her very busy when she's not at school. We've got to do that this weekend, as we've been doing for the last two years, actually." "I know, I know--" Tita cut herself off, blew out air, pulled herself together, and said, "I'll put the kettle on. Let's have a cup of tea." "Good idea." Justine smiled at Tita, squeezed her arm. "She'll be all right." Tita nodded and went to fill the kettle. Justine walked over to the fire and stood in front of it, glancing around. The kitchen was a comforting room, warm, inviting, and one of her favorites in the house. Copper pots and pans hanging down from the pot rack affixed to the ceiling gleamed brightly. In between the pots were strings of onions and garlic, bunches of lavender and thyme, whole sausages and salamis, all of which added a French Provençal feeling. It had always been the hub of the house where everyone congregated, because part of it was furnished as a living room. A sofa and wing chairs, a television set, and a Welsh dresser were all grouped near the fireplace, while a large wood table, which seated ten, was used to divide the room; beyond the table were countertops and the usual appliances. With its terra-cotta tiled floor, pale peach walls, and floral fabrics, the kitchen had a certain charm and a welcoming air about it. The phone started ringing, and Justine stepped over to the small desk in a corner near the fireplace, and picked up the receiver. "Indian Ridge," she said, and immediately sat down in the chair when she heard her assistant's voice. "Hello, Ellen." "Hi, Justine. I guess you made it up there in record time." "I did. What's happening?" "All's well. I just had a call from Miranda's PA and she wants to see the film on Tuesday afternoon at four o'clock, instead of Thursday morning. I told her I thought it would be fine, but that I'd better check with you. There's nothing in your book." "I've a pretty empty week, I know that. So yes, we'll screen the film whenever Miranda wants." "I'll confirm it with Angie. Everything's okay there, I suppose." "It is. I'm here with Tita, and Daisy's busy with her coloring book. I haven't seen Pearl yet, she went to the market, and apparently Carlos and Ricardo are up on the ridge, working on Richard's current project." "The guest house." "Which we don't really need. On the other hand, he needs it, Ellen, because it gives him work to do up here. It takes his mind off things." "There's still a lot of grief on him," Ellen murmured. "I wish I knew somebody nice to introduce him to." "He wouldn't be interested, I'm afraid," Justine shot back. "Anyway, I'll now come back on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday. Have a nice weekend, Ellen." "And you too." As she hung up the phone Justine had no way of knowing that her world, and Richard's, was about to change forever.   Copyright (c) 2012 by Beaji Enterprises, Inc. Excerpted from Letter from a Stranger by Barbara Taylor Bradford All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.