Each of these seasonal letters from Alistair Cooke is a gem. Dating from 1951 to 2003, they are now doubly impressive as they don’t just take the reader stateside, but back to another time. Just the right length, Cooke’s words are precise and his voice mellifluous.
However, the package lets them down. Justin Webb’s introductions are at best redundant and at worst irritating; he provides a synopsis of each letter and on one occasion advises us to listen out for Cooke’s description of Osama Bin Laden. The letters require such little scene setting it would have been better to do more than provide a date.
Collections like this are for fans who want something to treasure. This rather ordinary two CD package, which heavily promotes other BBC audio titles while providing only a sparse biography of Alistair Cooke, fails to tick that box. It may still qualify as a stocking filler Christmas gift for someone who still misses Alistair Cooke’s regular Letters from America, but only just.