It’s October of 1960, and Jennifer Stirling is doesn’t know what to feel. She awoke in a hospital bed to the inquisitive voices of the nurses, not knowing how long she had been there and why. Her initial needs are basic: all she wants is to find the words to observe the world around her. She surely wasn’t asking for her husband (what husband?), as the nurses inferred from her resoluteness upon waking. Laurence, who appears to be ten years her senior, is handsome, wealthy, and seems kind, but why does she not remember him or feel any love towards him? Was she happy in her former life of homemaking and social calls? She accepts the fact that she may need to coast along, filling the role of wife and friend of everyone’s expectations until she comes across an impassioned letter from “B,” a man who is not her husband. A man who was willing to give up everything for her, a man Jennifer can’t get out of her head.
More than forty years later, the same letter will be found by a woman in the archives of a newspaper in London named Ellie Haworth, a wrier struggling to revitalize her career with the paper. In her quick obsession with the lovers she ties up the ending of her own complicated relationship with a married man with Jennifer and B’s affair. If only theirs had a happy ending, she thinks, then maybe hers could too. But as Ellie investigates further she learns that such relationships are far from clear cut and decades in fact may make all the difference in the world.
Sounds epic, doesn’t it? Double, multi-generational love stories set in both 1960s and modern day London? I had not a clue what to expect but that The Last Letter From Your Lover came strongly and convincingly recommended by Laura of A Jane of All Reads. If that wasn’t already enough to put it on my radar, Sarra Manning listed Jojo Moyes as a read-alike to her own complex chick lit novels, and with that, the book became a no-brainer buy for me. Isn’t the muted turquoise of the US edition just lovely? I’m glad I waited for it and even more glad that I read it.
As any synopsis of The Last Letter From Your Lover would begin, the book starts out from Jennifer’s eyes as she awakens from her accident. The ways the plot can unfold when a main character who initially has no memory are always thrilling to me. It was clear there was more to meet the eye than picture perfect trophy wife Jennifer and well-mannered Laurence. From there the narrative jumps around from before and after the accident in 1960 and to 1964 with changing viewpoints but it’s seamlessly and tantalizingly done. I was completely addicted the moment I read the passion in the first letter Jennifer comes across from B. Most chapters end with a sense that something big and decisive is about to happen, but then when you turn the page, you’re transported to a different point in time or a different perspective. The lovers are thwarted again and again and to be left hanging was awful at times. I hate being spoiled and vigilantly keep away from spoilers in reviews but I couldn’t help looking ahead on a few occasions to allay my fears, that’s how utterly invested I was in these two. This is not to say that the pace or plot ever lull but that I so desperately wanted Jennifer and B to end up together, I became a little obsessed to know their final fate. Naturally when the fixation is at its worst is when the perspective shifts from Jennifer to Ellie and the time period from the 60s to the present day. But my worries that I would prefer one of the time periods over another were quickly put to rest. Though Ellie exists more to bring the past and the present together this didn’t make her story any less enjoyable or more predictable. There are also a couple of shocking reveals that I did not see coming – don’t you love when that happens? Overall The Last Letter From Your Lover was lovely, unexpected, and offers a hard won yet sweet ending. The clear and assured writing was completely fluid and effortless to read and it’s not a matter of if but which title from Jojo Moyes’ backlist I will read next. For now I’m already looking forward to passing this one around.