The Jessica Letters

November 13, 2009

The Jessica Letters sounded as if it ought to be a good book: a young woman from Georgia starts writing book reviews for a paper in New York. After traveling to the city and meeting the paper’s editor, they begin to correspond, and eventually fall in love. Conceptually, there’s nothing wrong with it. In practice, it’s pretty awful.

Philip, the editor, is smug and condescending and talks a lot about how man has a dual nature and woman a single one. Jessica is arch and stereotypically feminine, and the authors have tried to make her at once intellectual and an angel in the house type, and it doesn’t really work. And then there’s a whole melodramatic thing with Jessica’s father not allowing her to correspond with Philip, which mostly serves to show us that he’s even more self-involved that he originally appeared.

And you know the bit at the end of Jane Eyre where Jane and Rochester apparently communicate telepathically? There’s a thing like that in The Jessica Letters, too, only more so.

I think I might have found it all very interesting on some level if I hadn’t been so busy cringing.

At least it was short.


  1. I’m reading this now and looked here hoping you reviewed this and that you’d say something that would make this book worth finishing.. I’m nearly done and I will finish, but I sure wish someone had done a better job with this. As you say the premise is a good one. I so wanted it to be good. It’s a tough read and pretty intellectually out there. All the Humanism talk and denial of a God by the Editor-Phillip. So many references to obscure (to me) authors. Way too much untranslated Latin. I looked up the first few, and just didn’t care enough after that. Then Jessica, I couldn’t figure out what she believed.
    I love Jack. Imagining a future for this group has me hoping they don’t screw him up too bad. He managed to survive living with and watching his alcoholic dad die. But the controlling minister and flighty ‘adopted mom’ and out-there ‘adopted dad’ would be enough to drive me bonkers.
    Off to finish it, because and only because it’s what I do.

    • Nothing would make that book worth finishing, and I’m impressed that you decided to do it anyway.

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