The Hatbox Letters

Hatbox Letters cover001

“In the corner is a stack of nine antique hatboxes…She slides her fingers over a lid, remembering the excitement she and her cousins had felt about these boxes and the disappointment of finding only papers whose half-read sentences were like windborne music or distant surf, faint hints of a larger sound.”

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 Kate Harding, 52, is facing her second winter after the death of her beloved husband. Her grown children have left, and she is alone in a rambling Victorian house, situated in a quiet New Brunswick town. Her sister has delivered nine hatboxes filled with the letters and diaries of her grandparents. Mired in grief, she begins to read. The past’s shocking truth dispels her nostalgia, and at the same time, a new tragedy unfolds. Kate’s house, surrounded by gardens and the gentle sounds of a river, becomes a blessed refuge in which she can connect the strands of her unravelled life.


Longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; National Bestseller; A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2004; Shortlisted for the 2005 Atlantic Booksellers Choice Award

 Globe and Mail: “….a deeply moving book, one planted in the natural world, abundant in imagery that firmly roots Kate and the reader in the fecund cycle of life. A novel about death that makes you joyously glad that you are alive, The Hatbox Letters is both elegy and song of joy….an extaordinary achievement…”

 The Chronicle Herald: “Powning’s exquisite novel sings…as brilliant as the light towards which it reaches.”

The Vancouver Sun: “The imagery is evocative and clear, and the feelings of love and loss are transmitted effectively and elegantly…conveys a sense of wonder and wisdom.”

The Gazette: “…her descriptions of gardens and birds rival any Audubon painting. The Hatbox Letters is not only an absorbing literary experience, but an exquisite visual experience as well..”

 Quill and Quire: “The writing is highly sensual, painterly, even, vividly portraying the natural world and its changing seasons…Powning’s subject here is no less than the relationship of life and death, and she engages it with rigour and grace.”

 The Midwest Book Review: “A fabulous character study.”