I’ve read this book twice now, loved it both times, and still marvel at the way it does what it does. Being written in the form of letters to and from various characters certainly helps: they function like short chapters, doling out just enough information to keep you interested, but never overwhelming you with so much that you get bored.
Another factor is the characters: they’re likeable. They all come across – with a couple of exceptions – as people you’d like to meet and get to know. Although the story is set in the aftermath of WWII, and the suffering that that entailed isn’t avoided, the book reminded me of nothing so much as Bill Forsyth’s film Local Hero. And I think that’s this story’s secret, really. Just like Local Hero, it’s charming.