“I think,” she said, “that you and I could make each other terribly unhappy.”
And as she spoke, something deep inside him keeled over a little, as if in defeat. “I think,” he said slowly, “that I’d like that very much.”
Jennifer Stirling wakes in a hospital, after a car accident, not knowing anything, not remembering anything about her life. There is a man there, whom the staff call “Your Husband”:
“He was a handsome man, perhaps ten years older than she was, with a high, noble forehead and serious, hooded eyes. She knew, at some deep level, that he must be who he said he was, that she was married to him, but it was perplexing to feel nothing when everyone so obviously expecting a different reaction. Sometimes she would stare at him when he wasn’t looking, waiting for some jolt of familiarity to kick in. Sometimes, when she woke, she would find him sitting there, newspaper lowered, gazing at her as if he felt something similar.”
It is October 1960. The doctor reckons that she will heal and return to her own self in no time – no therapy, no extra care needed. But it takes a long time for her to figure out her life, her memories, her relationship to her rich industrialist husband Laurence, to their circle of friends. Her lovely home and her closet of gorgeous clothes speak of an extravagant lifestyle. But it feels empty to her, and something still feels off.
“She knew almost everything it was possible to know about herself, but that didn’t ameliorate her ever-present sense of dislocation, of having been dropped into the wrong life.”
Then, hidden in a book, she finds a letter to her from ‘B':
“When she read his notes, her skin prickled, her heart raced. She recognised these words. But for all that she knew, there was still a great hole at their heart.”
She finds a few more letters and gradually begins to piece the puzzles of her life – and her heart.
In 2003, a journalist named Ellie Haworth finds one of the letters from ‘B’ in the newspaper archives. She is drawn to this love letter, being in love with a married man herself, and tracks down Jennifer, for an assignment at first, then out of a personal interest in the story.
I started this book thinking it would be a light, chick-lit-ish (ugh I hate that word, but I can’t think of anything else to call it) read. That’s not really my typical read, but I had read good reviews of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, and The last letter from your lover happened to be available as an e-book and was curious. But I just got so absorbed in the story of Jennifer and her ‘B’ (we do meet him early on in the story, I just don’t want to reveal too much here), sometimes staying up a little later to read more, to finish a chapter. I suppose that’s what they call a page-turner.
Moyes brings us deep into the heart of her characters, I felt so attached to Jennifer’s relationship with ‘B’, and her struggles to come to terms with her existence.
It was also interesting to see the contrast of 1960 and 2003. The love letters sent via P.O. boxes, and you weren’t sure when your letter would get picked up. The waiting – for days, weeks even. The texts and emails transmitted in a matter of seconds today, from anywhere in the world. The waiting of a different kind (it’s been five seconds and he still hasn’t replied??). The stifled, controlled life of Jennifer Stirling at a time when divorce was frowned on. Ellie Haworth, once a hungry young journalist, now spending her time wistfully waiting for a hint, a sign, reading and rereading his texts and emails for disguised feelings.
A surprisingly good read. I can’t wait to read more by Jojo Moyes!
Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typer of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30 she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992 She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University, and apart from 1994 when she worked in Hong Kong for the Sunday Morning Post, she worked at The Independent for ten years, including stints as Assistant news editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.
She has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. She lives on a farm in Essex with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.