Postcards dashed off in haste, long detailed descriptions of life abroad and letters that read like itineraries—Away has it all.
This category has been going through a growth spurt lately. Yesterday, I read letters from an American running a laundromat with his new bride in Russia, a Canadian law student studying in Leeds and a young woman stationed in Rawanda with Medcins Sans Frontiers. I recall some of my older favorites including one beautifully crafted letter describing an expat Christmas celebration in Uganda in the '70s. You can travel anywhere in Away, including back in time.
Earlier this week, I came across a series of letters written in the summer of 1952—a five-way correspondence between two young women on a grand tour of Europe, the parents of one of the young women also on "the continent" for the summer, and a sister back home in Canada tending to her siblings as well as her own young family.
Some passages that really transported me are:
"How lovely of Bobby's mother to make you a crinoline."
"I hope you have a good crossing... Trying to get the laundry done between showers."
"Sitting around a wonderful fire having a sing-song".
"Bought a skirt yesterday, which is a very nice grey flannel for only $7."
"Bought a long-sleeved dark green cashmere pullover for only $18, which isn't much cheaper than Canada."
"I was terrified to hear of you two roaming the streets of Naples. Don't you remember I told you it has the worst reputation of any city in the world... Oh well you are safe now, but don't wander off in Paris on your own."
"We have a nice room here at the Savoy Firenze and hardly time for more than a good night's rest and to wash our undies and shirts. Nylon is wonderful in thtat it dries quickly, but we have discovered it is also very hot."
"Daddy wanted to surprise you, but I'm sure you got a thrill when you heard anyway. You will be flying on one of the new Elizabethan Planes as we did. The wings are placed that everyone gets a good view. However step lively and get a seat by the window—there are no reserved seats and you will be surprised how soon you are in London."Others are :