Marcel's Letters : A Font and the Search for One Man's Fate
by Porter, Carolyn

Searching for a new font design in an antique store, the author, a graphic designer, finds a bundle of letters with expressive pen-and-ink handwriting that lead her on a desperate search to discover the fate of the letter writer during World War II.

Carolyn Porter is a graphic designer, typography geek, and founder of the graphic design company Porterfolio. She designed the font P22 Marcel Script, which garnered five awards, including the prestigious Certificate of Typographic Excellence from the New York Type Director’s Club. She lives in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

*Starred Review* Although Porter found the letters, perhaps they also found her. So she is told more than once by those who hear her improbable tale of a chance discovery that would consume more than a decade of her life. Porter, a graphic designer, was drawn to the handwritten letters in an antique store for their beautiful script, without understanding a word of the French writing. After years of arduous work designing a font based on those letters, in a fit of curiosity she had one of them translated. That first letter, sent from Berlin during WWII, contained a father's tender words to his young daughters, along with perplexing references to clothes that needed mending and his inability to buy a comb. It started Porter on a quest to find out what happened to its author, a man named Marcel. Porter's captivating memoir describes her journey to find answers, noting how her fascination with Marcel proved infectious as she faces obstacle after obstacle and enlists the help of experts to discover the fate that awaited him. She learns about a program that brought millions of workers to Germany to feed the war machine, the wretched conditions they faced, and how difficult it was to survive. As impressive as her detective work is, it is Marcel and his letters-real, honest, heartfelt, and brave-that are undoubtedly the star of this marvelous book. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

A graphic designer and self-described "typography geek" tells the story behind the creation of her award-winning font, P22 Marcel.On an antiquing trip in the early 2000s, Porter acquired a series of "scratchy, old, ink-on-paper" letters written in a beautiful, unique script she wanted to use as the basis for a font design. The letters, written in French, were penned by a man named Marcel and had been posted from Berlin to Marcel's family in France during World War II. But surface information about the letter writer was not enough for Porter, who would spend the next decade carefully crafting the font she would name in Marcel's honor. The more she studied the letter shapes, the more she puzzled over the context in which Marcel wrote his letters, which he always ended with a deep paternal tenderness and signed with an eye-catching flourish. She began her search online, which yielded tantalizing clues. She learned that Marcel had been one of thousands of French citizens obliged to participate in a Vichy government forced-labor program that sent them to work in German factories. This information only made Porter more desirous to know whether the man she had come to think of as "my Marcel" had survived. Enlisting the aid of translators and a genealogist, the author eventually discovered that Marcel had reunited with his wife and children. More importantly, Marcel had been able to put his time as a forced worker behind him and live a happy life. The book is most interesting for the details it offers about the process Porter used to transform script into font and the search she undertook to piece together Marcel's life story. While it is clear that the author felt a genuine connection to Marcel, consideration of why he became so personally important to her is lacking. The result is a story that obscures the reader's relationship with the narrator. A flawed but intriguing memoir from a diligent researcher. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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