The Last Letter From Your Lover: A Novel

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The Last Letter From Your Lover: A Novel

by Jojo Moyes

Penguin Publishing Group | June 26, 2012 | Trade Paperback

The Last Letter From Your Lover: A Novel is rated 4.6667 out of 5 by 3.
A heartbreaking, stay-up-all-night novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You and One Plus One

A Brief Encounter for our time, The Last Letter from Your Lover is a sophisticated, spellbinding double love story that spans decades and thrillingly evokes a bygone era. In 1960, Jennifer Stirling wakes in the hospital and remembers nothing—not the car accident that put her there, not her wealthy husband, not even her own name. Searching for clues, she finds an impassioned letter, signed simply "B," from a man for whom she seemed willing to risk everything. In 2003, journalist Ellie Haworth stumbles upon the letter and becomes obsessed with learning the unknown lovers’ fate—hoping it will inspire her own happy ending. Remarkably moving, this is a novel for romantics of every age.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 432 pages, 8.42 × 5.45 × 0.88 in

Published: June 26, 2012

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143121103

ISBN - 13: 9780143121107

Found in: Fiction

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Better Than Average "Chick Lit" Jennifer Stirling is a typical 1960’s housewife. Typical, that is, for her social standing. She feels she does nothing but decorate her husband’s life, but then that’s what all her friends do as well. Then one morning she wakes up in the hospital, remembering nothing about the accident that put her there, or her life before that. Slowly, through hidden correspondence she finds in the back of her closet, glimpses of her previous life come back to mind. It’s definitely not what she expected. An unhappy marriage? A lover? Plans to run away? All with a man she knows nothing about except that the letters are signed with a “B”. Jump to 2003 when features writer Ellie Haworth finds a copy of one of the letters in a dusty old file in the archives of the newspaper she works for. Too intriguing to ignore and much to the chagrin of her editor, she puts everything else aside to investigate this letter that so touched her heart. As she begins to pull the story together she realizes that the parallels between her story and Jennifer’s are both uncanny and disturbing. This book is told in three distinct parts; Jennifer’s story, Ellie’s story and then, the two collide. It is a love story but it is also so much more than that. It’s a commentary of the differences in women’s roles in the early 1960’s, the beginning of “women’s lib” and the role of women in the 21st century. It also explores, and this is the part I found so fascinating, the differences in the way people correspond with the coming of email, cell phones and text messaging. That in itself so clearly defines the differences in the lives of the two main characters. I really enjoyed this book and, as I came to the last pages, I didn't want the story to end.
Date published: 2013-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous I really enjoyed this story as much as Me Before You! Very good story with no slow parts! Would recommend for anyone wanting a light read.
Date published: 2013-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Story I loved this book so much that I couldn't wait to finish it so I could write a review and recommend it to friends. I loved reading about Jennifer in 1960. Her life opened my eyes to the "real enough" traditions and ideals of her time. Once the letters stopped, and all of a sudden we were with Ellie in 2003, you could not help but feel invested in this love affair. With both a modern and nostalgic tone to it, you could really imagine the fashion and legacy of the 60s in London.This book would be great for anyone.
Date published: 2012-11-02

– More About This Product –

The Last Letter From Your Lover: A Novel

The Last Letter From Your Lover: A Novel

by Jojo Moyes

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 432 pages, 8.42 × 5.45 × 0.88 in

Published: June 26, 2012

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143121103

ISBN - 13: 9780143121107

Read from the Book

Part 1Chapter 1OCTOBER 1960“She’s waking up.”There was a swishing sound, a chair was dragged, then the brisk click of curtain rings meeting. Two voices murmuring.“I’ll fetch Dr. Hargreaves.”A brief silence followed, during which she slowly became aware of a different layer of sound—voices, muffled by distance, a car passing: it seemed, oddly, as if it were some way below her. She lay absorbing it, letting it crystallize, letting her mind play catch-up, as she recognized each for what it was.It was at this point that she became aware of the pain. It forced its way upward in exquisite stages: first her arm, a sharp, burning sensation from elbow to shoulder, then her head: dull, relentless. The rest of her body ached, as it had done when she . . .When she . . . ?“He’ll be along in two ticks. He says to close the blinds.”Her mouth was so dry. She closed her lips and swallowed painfully. She wanted to ask for some water, but the words wouldn’t come. She opened her eyes a little. Two indistinct shapes moved around her. Every time she thought she had worked out what they were, they moved again. Blue. They were blue.“You know who’s just come in downstairs, don’t you?”One of the voices dropped. “That singer. The one who looks like Paul Newman.”“I thought I heard something on the wireless about it. Lend me your thermometer, will you, Vi, mine’s acting up again.”“I’m going to try and have a peek at him at lunchtime. Matron’s had newspapermen outside all morning. I’ll wager she’s at her
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From the Publisher

A heartbreaking, stay-up-all-night novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You and One Plus One

A Brief Encounter for our time, The Last Letter from Your Lover is a sophisticated, spellbinding double love story that spans decades and thrillingly evokes a bygone era. In 1960, Jennifer Stirling wakes in the hospital and remembers nothing—not the car accident that put her there, not her wealthy husband, not even her own name. Searching for clues, she finds an impassioned letter, signed simply "B," from a man for whom she seemed willing to risk everything. In 2003, journalist Ellie Haworth stumbles upon the letter and becomes obsessed with learning the unknown lovers’ fate—hoping it will inspire her own happy ending. Remarkably moving, this is a novel for romantics of every age.

About the Author

Jojo Moyes is the New York Times bestselling author of One Plus One, The Girl You Left Behind, Honeymoon in Paris, Me Before You, The Last Letter from Your Lover, Silver Bay, and The Ship of Brides. Moyes writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines. She is married to Charles Arthur, technology editor of The Guardian. They live with their three children on a farm in Essex, England.

Editorial Reviews

“With its realistically complicated characters and emotionally complex plot, The Last Letter from Your Lover is hopelessly and hopefully romantic.”—Chicago Tribune“Crafting a love story that feels not just compelling but true is a very difficult thing indeed—and yet, with The Last Letter from Your Lover, Jojo Moyes has done it twice. I found myself utterly transfixed by both sets of lovers in this marvelous novel. Moyes is a tremendously gifted storyteller, and I'm all admiration.”—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife“A fabulous, emotional, and evocative book—perfect for anyone who loves Mad Men.”—Sophie Kinsella, bestselling author of Confessions of a Shopaholic“This story of passion and missed chances—with a twist that provides fresh perspective 40 years later—is entrancing.”—Parade (Top Pick)“A prize-winning, cross-generational love story of missed connections and delayed gratification [that] hits a seam of pure romantic gold. . . . A cliffhanger-strewn tale of heartache in two strikingly different eras [and] a tour de force.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)“Elegiac . . . emotionally ablaze . . . Moyes’s genuinely captivating tale resonates deeply in today’s fast-paced, less gracious world.”—Publishers Weekly“What’s astonishing about this ingeniously crafted dual love story . . . is how swiftly and effortlessly Jojo Moyes pulls you in. . . . Like an afternoon spent watching a beloved old movie, made wonderfully new.”—Barnes & Noble Review“Toggl
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Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTION

When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in a London hospital in 1960, she has no memory of who she is or of the car crash that brought her there. Her story, deftly woven by novelist Jojo Moyes, moves between the events leading up to the accident and Jennifer's attempt to return to a life she does not recognize—and one she realizes she does not want.

As she searches for small clues to her former self, she finds—secreted away in corners of her home—passionate letters written to her by a lover she can't remember. Who is the man who signs only "B"? Where is he? What happened to their romance?

Jennifer also discovers the true nature of her marriage to the wealthy and powerful Laurence; their glamorous parties and luxury homes mask an unhappy marriage and an empty existence. As the growing discontent of Jennifer's privileged, lonely life becomes impossible for her to ignore, Laurence admits his full knowledge of her mysterious lover and the cause of her accident.

As Jennifer attempts in vain to chase down a chance at a life that may no longer exist, Moyes moves the story ahead forty years to 2003 and introduces us to Ellie, a young reporter in London. Struggling with an unsatisfying affair with a married lover and barely keeping her career afloat, Ellie is lost in her own life. While researching for an article for the newspaper's anniversary edition, she stumbles on a heartbreaking letter in the newspaper's archives. Struck by the beauty of the letter's plea—and desperate for a chance to impress her editor—Ellie decides to track down the woman to whom the letter is addressed, and the mysterious writer, "B." By piecing together what remains of this long-lost love, Ellie profoundly transforms Jennifer's life, and her own in the process.

The Last Letter from Your Lover is a smart, emotionally affecting novel that spans decades and far-flung locales, and in it Moyes presents a nuanced and realistic portrait of love, marriage, and fidelity, both today and generations ago. The passion and tenderness of the affair between Jennifer and "B" leap off the page with nearly palpable energy; the lovers' connection is undeniable, marked by an erotic and intellectual attraction that has the power to upend their lives. Proof of the enduring strength and redemptive power of love, the novel is by turns tender, sad, and inspiring, and its final pages will leave readers clutching their books—and their tissues.

 


ABOUT JOJO MOYES

Jojo Moyes grew up in London and studied at London University. In addition to writing fiction, she writes for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. She currently lives in Essex with her husband and three children.

 


A CONVERSATION WITH JOJO MOYES

Q. How did you prepare for writing this novel? Did any friends or family share stories of their own love letters?

Yes, I was fairly shameless in getting people to show me theirs. I put an advertisement in a national newspaper in England and on social networking sites, asking for examples, and begged them from relatives and friends. I think when you are writing there's nothing like real life to inspire you (and show you how odd the vagaries of the human heart can be). I also looked at my own old love letters from twenty years ago. What fascinated me was not just the passion and urgency that leapt off the page, but the sense of reading about the life of someone I no longer really recognized.

Q. In this era of e-mail and texting, how do you feel the art of letter writing (love or otherwise) has changed?

Completely. I first got a hint of this when a young female relative told me she'd never received a love letter, and I realized that this was a generational thing; that mine was probably the last generation to write and receive love letters as a matter of course. I think the great danger of new technologies, whether they be Facebook or e-mail or text, is the potential for reading too much between the lines. Ellie, for example, ascribes all sorts of feelings to her lover that aren't actually there. I think technology often makes the language of romance murkier, not clearer.

Q. Jennifer and Ellie demonstrate the great shift in women's place in society over the past forty years. What do you think are the biggest differences between Ellie and Jennifer, both in terms of the expectations placed on them by society and the expectations they have for their own lives?

What Ellie has is freedom; to sleep with whomever she wants, without shame, to work, to earn her own money, to make her own mistakes. Jennifer's might look like an enviable life, with her money and cosseted existence, but she is there merely to, as she puts it, "look decorative." Her husband is not just uninterested in her opinions, but actively wishes that she shouldn't express them. But it doesn't occur to her to question this until she meets Boot. Both women discover that there is a genuine satisfaction from working, being able to look themselves in the eye, and expecting more of themselves.

Q. Thanks to the popularity of the TV series Mad Men, the early 1960s are a very hot era right now, especially in terms of clothing and design. What is the appeal of this time period?

I think it's mostly the issue of restraint. What is always powerful in narrative terms is what you can't have, rather than what you can—the things that keep people (and lovers) apart—whether it be society, morality, issues of shame or actual physical and geographical issues like war.

What's fascinating about that particular era is that you have all the restrictive moral codes of an older society butting up against the new freedoms of the sixties. It was a society in flux. Ten years later, if Jennifer had wanted to run off with Boot, probably neither of them would have hesitated.

Q. You really play around with time and the traditional narrative structure, not just moving between Jennifer's and Ellie's lives but also shifting Jennifer's storyline between before and after the accident to tease out B's identity. Why did you choose to structure the novel this way? Was it difficult to achieve?

Yes! And it took a leap of faith to believe the readers would come with me. One of the things I love when I'm reading is if the author trusts my intelligence enough to let me deduce things myself. By playing with narrative structure in such an extreme way, I felt I might be testing that to the limit. But luckily, it seems to have been one of the elements that people liked most. What was difficult was making each part distinct enough that the moving around in time and space wouldn't be too confusing; using different narrative voices (i.e. ,Boot instead of Jennifer) helped clarify it.

Q. The novel presents a fascinating view of relationships past and present. Today, anecdotally, it's said that half of all marriages will end in divorce. In Jennifer's era, divorce was still a social taboo. Why do you think popular attitudes have changed? What response do you think Jennifer and Laurence's domestic arrangement would get today? Do you think the increase in divorce is healthier than older eras' decision to stick it out no matter how unhappy the marriage?

I think popular attitudes have changed because so many people were so miserable. But also because there is a much greater emphasis on personal freedoms, perhaps too much sometimes.

I've been married thirteen years but wouldn't dare to consider myself an expert. What I would say is that if you grit your teeth and stick things out when you hit trouble, instead of following your initial instinct to go, you often find that a year down the line you have something richer and deeper than you could have imagined. I think those who jump ship often don't believe that this can happen, and that's a real shame. So as far as your question goes, I think there's probably a happy medium for most people. If something is abusive, then go, without question. For most people, though, especially where there are children, I think it's worth giving it everything you've got.

Q. You've created a complete world for Jennifer and Ellie, with a broad spectrum of friends, coworkers, and employees. Of your secondary characters, who is your favorite and why?

I did love writing Don, the news editor, mostly because I used to have an editor just like him; a wisecracking news junkie, but incredibly loyal to his colleagues. There was proper love between him and Anthony. I also had a soft spot for Moira Parker. She was so much the product of her time, and so obviously destined to be disappointed. I could picture her even before I started to write her.

Q. How much of your own experience as a journalist went into writing Ellie's scenes at the newspaper? Now that you're focusing on fiction, do you miss that daily newsroom environment? What lessons from journalism have you applied to your fiction writing?

I think it took me a good year of being a full-time writer before I stopped missing the adrenaline of the newsroom. And even now, when a big news event happens, I have to resist the urge to call up and ask if they need an extra pair of hands. To get over it, I have a shared office in a small town near where I live; it means I have a fresh source of gossip and a reason to get dressed in the mornings.

And yes, a lot of my experience went into the newsroom scenes. I also went to the British Newspaper Library and immersed myself in newspapers of the day so that I could get a real sense of the preoccupations of the era, its language and advertisements. The asbestos plotline came from a huge advertising pullout on "Asbestos the Wonder Mineral" I found while doing my research.

Journalism has taught me so many things useful for writing fiction. The first is to see stories everywhere; journalism really teaches you to listen and to ask questions—why is that window always open? Is this wonder mineral really as good as it seems? Why does Mrs. Smith at No. 42 race off as soon as her husband leaves?

It also taught me that it's my responsibility to keep the reader interested. In journalism, if the reader doesn't get beyond the intro, then it's your fault. I can't see the difference with fiction. But mostly—and my publishers love me for this—it means I never miss a deadline.

Q. The first and the last sentence of a novel have tremendous impact on a reader. As a writer, how do you know when you've finally captured those moments? Why did you choose the sentences that you did?

I'm not sure you do know, apart from in your gut. All I know is that I tweak and fiddle until it feels right. And often, until it makes me cry. If my own scenes don't move me, I don't believe they'll move anyone else. So often it's a matter of reworking something until I'm sobbing.

Writing is a very strange profession.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • What similarities are there between Ellie and Jennifer? How do their experiences reflect their respective eras? Of the two women, with whom do you empathize or identify the most?

  • Have you ever written or received a love letter? Have you ever sent a romantic e-mail or text? Do you think electronic communication has changed the nature of expression? How does the emotional weight of a love letter compare with that of spoken words?

  • Does Laurence love Jennifer? Imagine yourself in his position. What were his motives in lying to Jennifer about O'Hare's death?

  • How did your opinion of O'Hare develop over the course of the novel? Is he a traditional romantic hero?

  • If Jennifer and O'Hare had run away together, what would their lives have been like?

  • Jennifer's friends and her mother are reluctant to tell her much about her life before the accident, urging her to focus on the future. Why? Do you believe they knew about her affair?

  • Why does Yvonne react the way she does to Jennifer's decision to leave Laurence?

  • Think of Jennifer's many roles as mother, daughter, wife, lover, and friend. Is it possible to fill all those roles at once? Should any one role be a priority and, if so, which one? With this in mind, did Jennifer make the right choice in pursuing O'Hare?

  • Examine the female friendships in the novel, particularly the interactions between Ellie and her girlfriends. Had you been friends with Ellie, what advice would you have given her about John? What would you say to John?

  • Rory argues that being in love doesn't excuse someone from being responsible for their actions, that "everyone makes a choice" to do either the right or the wrong thing (p. 332). Ellie disagrees, believing that people can be swept away by emotion. What do you think?

  • Did you find the ending satisfactory? What happens next for Jennifer and Ellie?