Review of “The Last Letter from Your Lover” by Jojo Moyes

Readers of Moyes’ other books will recognize her most commonly used plot device: lovers of the past are juxtaposed with an analogous couple in the present time, there being an unexpected tie between the two pairs. However, the fact that the author re-uses this theme doesn’t affect her ability to create new and satisfying wine in this old bottle. The story is not really as predictable as you would suspect, and contains several clever twists. Most importantly, Moyes incorporates those elements of storytelling at which she excels – her “heart,” and her ability to capture realistic dialogue and historical social conventions.

last-letter-from-your-lover

The book begins in 1960 with Jennifer Stirling, 27, waking up from a near-fatal car wreck to find that she can’t remember much. Although she is apparently rich, beautiful, and married to an important executive, she only has fleeting memories of who she was before the accident. She also finds evidence, through some hidden love letters, that she was having an affair with someone before the accident, but can’t even remember who he was.

In the present day, we meet Ellie Haworth, 32, a reporter who keeps telling herself she is “living the dream.” But her relationship with John, a famous author, leaves something to be desired: he is married, and after a year with him, he still shows no sign of leaving his wife.

Going back and forth in time, we find out what happened to the couple from forty years before, and why two people in the present day get involved in their story.

Discussion: This book was the winner of the 2011 Romantic Novel of the Year Award in the U.K., and deservedly so. Unlike more explicit books that lose all sense of romance in the details, Moyes knows how to evoke a feeling without an anatomy lesson. In this passage, for example, Jenny and her lover Anthony wordlessly encounter each other in an elevator, when Jenny is with her husband:

She looked at the floor, then her eyes slid back to Anthony’s, the rise and fall of her chest revealing how much he’d shocked her. Their eyes met, and in those few silent moments, he told her everything. He told her that she was the most astonishing thing he had ever encountered. He told her that she haunted his waking hours, and that every feeling, every experience he had had in his life up to that point was flat and unimportant compared to the enormity of this. He told her he loved her.”

Or there is this touching moment, when the two present-day protagonists are discussing Anthony’s letters to Jenny:

Why do you think nobody writes love letters like these anymore? she says… I mean, yes, there are texts and e-mails and things, but nobody sends them in language like this, do they? Nobody spells it out anymore….

‘Perhaps they do,’ he says… ‘Or perhaps, if you’re a man, it’s impossible to know what you’re meant to say.’”

But when he says that, of course, we readers know exactly what he means to say!

Evaluation: I haven’t yet found a book by Jojo Moyes not worth reading. This one may not be quite as mind-blowing as Me Before You, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a lovely, lovely book.

Rating: 4/5

Published in paperback by Penguin Books, 2012

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18 Responses

  1. After Me Before You, I’ll try anything by this author. Hope to read this one closer to it’s release date, which I think is May. Great review Jill

  2. I’ve only read Me Before You so far but really loved it – 4/4. I will have to somehow get more Moyes’ books in my TBR pile.

  3. This sounds lovely. And I can do without the anatomy lesson.

  4. I loved Me Before You and am excited to read this book even if it isn’t quite as good.

  5. My mother just had the same reaction to this book, so I think it will be my next Jojo Moyes novel. I read her novella (short story, really) Honeymoon in Paris last Sunday. It’s a prequel to The Girl You Left Behind and was like running into old friends. :-)

  6. I loved this book. I bought it on a whim in an airport bookstore and finished it in about 30 hours.

  7. I’m halfway through this one and also read Me Before You {for book club} ~ love this author!

  8. I actually just bought this! Now I’m even more excited to read it. :)

  9. While I haven’t read a large quantity, I do tend to enjoy books that move between two times (not time travel though). This sounds fascinating.

  10. wow…another good book by Jojo Moyes. Absolutely loved Me Before You.

  11. I am really curious about this one. I still haven’t read Moyes!

  12. She goes by Jenny? HOW GOOD. There are not enough good characters called Jenny! They are always, like, meek servants who are frightened of the men of the house.

  13. I am glad there is no anatomy lesson in this one to demonstrate love. I have to pick this one. After Me Before You, I’m ready for more Jojo Moyes.

  14. I really enjoyed this book when I read it a few years ago. I have liked everything I have read that came out since this too!

  15. I;m so glad you liked thie one. Me Before You is next for me :)

  16. Tough to live up to Me Before You! I’ll have to pick this one up.

    • Boy are you right about that, litandlife. Me Before You was totally terrific. I know I need to read other Moyes books, but I’m having a tough time getting them into the queue.

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