William Collins lands 'mesmerising' collection of unseen war letters

William Collins lands 'mesmerising' collection of unseen war letters

William Collins has secured world rights to “the most beautiful and vivid love letters ever to be written during the Second World War”. 

Arabella Pike, publishing director for William Collins, secured world rights in all languages from Felicity Bryan. 

Written by a young woman, Eileen Alexander to her love, Gershon Ellenbogen, the letters will be published for the first time in Spring 2020 with the title Love in the Blitz. Harper editor, Gail Winston will publish simultaneously in the US. 

The letters were rescued from oblivion via an impulse purchase on eBay by David McGowan. Transcribing over a million of Eileen’s words, McGowan recognised their quality and sent the letters, “as cinematically dramatic as Suite Française”, to Oxford professor Oswyn Murray, whose father Patrick Murray had been Alexander’s boss in the Air Ministry. 

Pike said: “Eileen Alexander’s letters are a literary masterpiece. Brilliant, intimate, joyous, dark, angry, generous, scurrilous and very, very funny by turns, her voice echoes across 80 years, as vivacious and engaging as when she first took up her pen. The art of letter writing was very much her medium and we are immensely excited to be publishing the book in 2020.”

The letters open in the summer of 1939 after Eileen has graduated with a First in English from Cambridge. “We plunge into the epistolary account she gives of her life during the war. As their romance blossoms, she uses her letters to display to her beloved her devotion and all her many talents,” said the publisher. “Brimming with wit, charm, intelligence, frank discussions of sex and professional ambition, Eileen’s letters give a unique account of war as it is seen and lived by women, not men; not to mention an unforgettable account of passionate love as it unfolds.”