The Strange Destiny of the Unsent Letter

Caroline Atkins


Letters are, as the critic Janet Malcolm puts it, ‘fossils of feeling’: once written and sent, their sentiments cannot be taken back. But what if, once written, they’re not sent – or never arrive?

What a Hazard a Letter Is is the first book to look at unsent letters in all their forms:

  • the expressions of love left unsaid that could have changed two people’s lives
  • the shooting from the hip outbursts that, if not thought better of, would have landed the author in hot water
  • the plot twists in novels caused by letters going astray
  • the letters that events conspired to leave unsent, by death, disaster or providence
  • the habitual un-senders of letters, from Emily Dickinson to President Truman

This endlessly surprising book ranges from George III to David Nicholls’ One Day, and from Beethoven’s mysterious muse to Iris Murdoch, in unsent letters that are by turns magnificent tirades, unbearably poignant, and all too often tell truths too near the mark to send. 

Caroline Atkins is a writer and editor for the Mail on Sunday’s You Magazine. She has written several books on design, and edited magazines for the National Magazine Company. She lives in London.


24 September 2018
jacketed hardback
198 x 129mm
ISBN-13: 978 0 9932911 7 3