Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase

Written by Louise Walters
Review by Rebecca Cochran

In present time, shy Roberta works in a bookstore in England, collecting bits and pieces of items she finds in various books. When her father gifts her with an old suitcase, which belonged to her grandmother Dorothea, Roberta is surprised to find a letter to her grandmother inside the suitcase. It is from Jan, her Polish grandfather. Mysteriously though, the letter is postmarked after he supposedly died during WWII. Roberta decides to track down the story behind the letter, and to figure out what secret Jan references in the letter.

Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase is mainly Dorothea’s story. Readers learn about her childhood, her unhappy marriage, and her life during the war. When an airplane crashes in the field behind her house, she rescues Squadron Leader Jan Pietrykowski from the flames. The two quickly become fast friends, and lovers. But in wartime, nothing is ever permanent, and soon Jan must leave. Then, something happens that changes Dorothea forever. It’s this secret that Roberta, in the present, is slowly unraveling.

Dorothea’s story riveted me from the start. Walters has a very artistic ability with her words, bringing both history and characters alive. However, I didn’t really like how the chapters alternated between past and present. Roberta’s story was much less engaging and didn’t do much for the overall plot. Also, randomly inserted at the beginning of each chapter were snippets from items Roberta finds in books in the bookstore. This was a bit jarring and had nothing to do with the story. All in all though, I remain impressed with Walters’ debut and am greatly interested to see what she comes up with next.