April is our favorite month of the year because it’s National Letter Writing Month! This year we’re celebrating some of the ways letter writing has featured in pop culture – through movies, books, and music. We hope our recommendations (head’s up – synopses contain some spoilers!) inspire you to watch, read, listen, and then write!
Have your own favorites? Let us know in the comments.
From top to bottom and left to right:
84, Charing Cross Road (1987)
New York City bibliophile Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft) writes to the London bookshop Marks & Co in search of some titles she has not been able to turn up locally. Store manager Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins) responds politely to her chatty letter, and over the course of two decades, a deep, long-distance friendship evolves. Based on Hanff’s epistolary memoir and its later two-person stage adaptation.
Bright Star (2009)
This biographical romantic drama film, written and directed by Jane Campion, is based on the last three years of the life of poet John Keats (played by Ben Whishaw) and his romantic relationship with Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) as seen through her eyes.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) and Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) are employees at Matuschek and Company, a general store in Budapest. Klara and Alfred are constantly at odds with each other, butting heads and disagreeing on almost everything. Both are enamored of their respective pen pals, who serve as welcome distractions in their lives. Little do they know, they are each the other’s pen pal and, despite outward differences, have unwittingly fallen in love through their letters.
Sound familiar? It’s the plot of 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, and the name of main character Kathleen Kelly’s bookshop!
P.S. I Love You (2007)
When Gerry (Gerard Butler), the husband of Holly Kennedy (Hilary Swank), dies from an illness, she loses the love of her life. Knowing how hard Holly will take his death, Gerry plans ahead. Beginning on her 30th birthday, she receives the first in a series of letters written by him, designed to ease her grief and encourage her to move forward to a new life.
The Notebook (2004)
In 1940s South Carolina, mill worker Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and rich girl Allie (Rachel McAdams) are desperately in love. But her parents don’t approve. When Noah goes off to serve in World War II, it seems to mark the end of their love affair. In the interim, Allie becomes involved with another man (James Marsden). But when Noah returns to their small town years later, on the cusp of Allie’s marriage, it soon becomes clear that their romance is anything but over.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
This biographical film tells the story of Lee Israel (played to perfection by Melissa McCarthy), a frustrated, hard-drinking author who can barely afford to pay her rent or bills in 1990s New York. Desperate for money, Israel soon hatches a scheme to forge letters by famous writers and sell them to bookstores and collectors. When the dealers start to catch on, Lee recruits a dubious friend to help her continue her self-destructive cycle of trickery and deceit.
The Young Victoria (2009)
As the only legitimate heir of England’s King William, teenage Victoria (Emily Blunt) gets caught up in the political machinations of her own family. Victoria’s mother (Miranda Richardson) wants her to sign a regency order, while her Belgian uncle schemes to arrange a marriage between the future monarch and Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), the man who will become the love of her life.
Mary and Max (2009)
Spanning 20 years and two continents, Mary and Max recounts the pen-pal relationship between two very different people: Mary Dinkle, a chubby, lonely eight-year-old living in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia; and Max Horovitz, a severely obese, 44-year-old Jewish man with Asperger’s syndrome living in the chaos of New York City.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
The story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two amoral lovers-turned-rivals who amuse themselves by ruining others and who ultimately destroy each other. As an epistolary novel, the book is composed of letters written by the various characters to each other. In particular, the letters between Valmont and the Marquise mark up the majority of the plot, along with those of Cécile de Volanges and Madame de Tourvel.
The book, published in 1782, was later banned in France for being dangerously immoral, and wasn’t translated into English until the 1920s, when it was championed by Virginia Woolf.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Persuasion is the last novel completed by Jane Austen. It was published on December 20, 1817, along with Northanger Abbey, six months after her death.
The story concerns Anne Elliot, an Englishwoman of 27 years, whose family moves to lower their expenses and reduce their debt by renting their home to an admiral and his wife. The wife’s brother, Captain Frederick Wentworth, was engaged to Anne in 1806, but the engagement was broken when Anne was persuaded by her friends and family to end their relationship. Anne and Captain Wentworth, both single and unattached, meet again after a separation lasting almost eight years, setting the scene for many humorous encounters as well as a second, well-considered chance at love and marriage for Anne.
Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock
This is first book in the Griffin and Sabine Saga. Griffin Moss is a rather doleful, lonesome, gaunt, and haunted postcard designer in London. Sabine Strohem is an illustrator of stamps living on an island in the South Pacific. One day Griffin gets an extraordinary letter from Sabine revealing that she knows all kinds of things about his life and work–somehow, she can share his soul from afar. They start exchanging love letters, yet it remains an open question whether Griffin and Sabine are two hearts that mystically beat as one, or simply illusory.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister’s letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
After his parents separate, Leigh Botts moves to a new town with his mother. Struggling to make friends and deal with his anger toward his absent father, Leigh loses himself in a class assignment in which he must write to his favorite author. When Mr. Henshaw responds, the two form an unexpected friendship that will change Leigh’s life forever.
The Incarnations by Susan Barker
A novel about a Beijing taxi driver whose past incarnations over 1,000 years haunt him through searing letters sent by his mysterious soul mate.
Who are you? You must be wondering. I am your soul mate, your old friend, and I have come back to this city of 16 million in search of you.
So begins the first letter that falls into Wang’s lap as he flips down the visor in his taxi. The letters that follow are filled with the stories of Wang’s previous lives…
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”
Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel.
This playlist has the perfect songs to get you writing! Listen on Spotify.