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From Newbury with Love by Anna Horsbrugh-Porter and Marina Aidova

Heart-warming collection of letters between an English couple and the family of a Soviet prisoner of conscience. Ages 11 to 99


Code: BA010

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This unique and moving collection of letters between an elderly English couple, Harold and Olive Edwards, and the family of a Soviet prisoner of conscience was inspired by an Amnesty International letter-writing campaign in 1971 and ended only with Harold’s death in 1986. The letters helped to save the Aidovs from utter despair. As Lera Aidov says: 'It is difficult to explain how greatly our life changed after that first post card. I never felt lonely any more… Harold and Olive’s letters changed my life – they gave me hope.'

'One of the most moving books you'll ever read'. Time Out

'From Newbury with Love: Letters of Friendship Across the Iron Curtain edited by Anna Horsbrugh-Porter and Marina Aidova, reduced me a soft, warm fluffy cloud. I fell deeply in love with all the people involved and would be delighted to have all of them as dinner guests, even though sadly some of the guests would now have to be invited by séance.

In 1971, a delightful couple were living an apparently quiet and conventional life outside the hamlet of Newbury.  However, Harold and his third wife, Olive Edwards, had an adventurous past which had included Harold’s extensive travelling in 1932 in what was then the Soviet Union. By 1971, they were scraping a living as sellers of second hand books. On the other hand, their intellectual life was immeasurably rich. Harold happened to come across a list of the children of political prisoners in Russia. He was especially touched by the child who was seven years old and who was almost exactly sixty-three years younger than he was.

So began a wonderful exchange of letters which grew to include many members of both families. Despite the presence of constant censorship and the possibility of visitations by the secret police, the correspondence flourished. Harold and Olive grew to care a great deal about young Marina, her mother, Lera and the imprisoned Slava. They were able to send the family clothes and magazines, some of which never arrived because anonymous postal authorities were smitten by their glossy attractions.

Much more importantly for the reader are the fascinating discussions about Russian literature because of Harold’s life-long obsession with and constant reading of it. When Olive writes, the subjects tend to be about her garden, her vegetable growing – by conviction and circumstance, the Edwards tried to be as self-sufficient as possible – her married daughter and her three grandchildren. Lera was the most accomplished writer of English, although, once he was released, Slava also wrote. The long term result of the correspondence was Marina’s university studies in English and her career as a translator for such organisations as the World Bank.

What is enchanting about their letters is both their very ordinariness and their determination to communicate with each other despite the barriers various bureaucracies erected. There were all people of good will who would have happy to have been neighbours rather than correspondents. When first Olive andthen  Harold died, the families wrote lovingly to each other and, finally, visits became possible.

The reader finishes this collection with a soft sigh and the conviction that all that is needed for peace to break out is the universal practice of letter writing. The reality that many in the world are illiterate only makes the delight of the book even more poignant.'  Suzanne O’Connor, English Department, St Vincent's College, Potts Point, Australia.

"I am very grateful to you for your kind wishes of a happy birthday for me and I wish you as well, good health and every success in your activities.  I am a first class schoolgirl.  I learn ballet and study English.  And what are you?"

In 1971 an elderly English bookseller, Harold Edwards read a list of names printed by Amnesty International as part of a letter-writing campaign.  It gave details of families of Soviet political prisoners who needed support.  Harold wrote to the Aidovs because their daughter, Marina, aged 7, had a birthday on the day before his.  This was the beginning of a correspondence between the Aidov family and Harold and his wife Olive that changed the course of all of their lives.  

The letters are written with immense humanity, understanding and affection, and kept Marina's mother, Lera, from utter despair.  The collection shows the power of one single family to make a difference to lives on the other side of the world.

    Hardcover: 288 pages
    Publisher: Profile Books; !st. Edition : 1st Printing edition (7 Sept. 2006)
    Language: English
    ISBN-13: 978-1861978608
    Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.9 x 22.2 cm

Additional info

Additional info

Code BA010
ISBN 978-1861978608


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