The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
Expected publication: July 7th 2011 by Penguin Group (USA), first published July 8th 2010
Synposis from cover: It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply "B," asking her for forgiveness.
Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter, also signed "B," in a forgotten file in her newspaper's archives. In this one, the writer asks his beloved to meet him on Platform 4, Paddington- to leave her husband and run away together. Ellie becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie's search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.
I'm so very much in love with this book. I knew I would be. I've been waiting for it for over a year ever since I saw it in an IMM post at Bookalicous Ramblings. It's previously been published in the UK but the US publication is finally coming this July and a book fairy was kind enough to send a copy my way.
And oh oh oh. What a beautiful book.
Jennifer Stirling is the ideal wife for a well-to-do business man in the 1960s. She's beautiful, charming, unassuming and docile, the perfect little trophy to accent her husband Larry's picture perfect life. Only she doesn't remember any of it since the car accident. She knows who she's suppose to be, and the role she's suppose to play in her life but she can't remember what it felt like to belong in it. Maybe it's because she never did. As she recovers and steps back into a life she can't even recollect, she begins to search for some shred of evidence that she was once a part of it.
Jennifer finds a letter folded between the pages of a book that hints of a secret life and a passion that clearly doesn't exist inside her marriage. The letter, signed only "B" was the first of several she finds hidden amongst her things. Each fervent, ardent proclamation of love finds Jennifer recapturing the sense of self that she hasn't been able to find inside her cookie cutter life, because it was never there. Who she really is exists only in her wildly romantic affair with the mysterious "B".
This book will make you crazy. In a good way. The story, which spans forty-three years has the torturous element of switching to a past or future moment just when...just when you finally think something wonderful is about to happen. Moyes makes you live each day with Jennifer, both past and future before she gives you the happy ending that by this point, you simply must have to find peace and fulfillment in your own life. You want this story to turn out perfect. I can imagine that it would even be difficult for a non-romantic to not feel the amazing pull this story has on the heart. It's that powerful. And if you're lacking a little faith in love at the moment, it can heal you. Books can = medicine. (This is not an endorsement to stop taking your crazy pills and live solely on book-love, you nut. :) Merely suggested as an adjunct.)
My adoration of the main character built slowly. From the start, which for her was when she woke up from the accident, she was unaccepting of her place in life. She knew it didn't fit; that she wasn't so two dimensional. Her unwavering belief that she simply could not be the person her life expected her to be earned my respect. In her social class and situation, at that time, one did not simply leave a secure home, family and friends to run off with a lover. The fact that she did it anyway, despite the ostracism it earned her made me cheer for her. I couldn't have been a "kept" wife, smiled, be well-coiffed and never have an opinion on anything. There's one instance in the book where Jenny and Larry are at a dinner party and Jenny attempts to join in a conversation concerning French politics and her husband basically tells her to shut up and not talk about things she knows nothing about. I would have smacked him- but well before that I would have already been branded a loud, wild, shameless hussy.
In the very middle of our story, just to make you squirm, Moyes jumps to 2003, where a struggling journalist named Ellie finds B's letters. She herself is involved, rather unsuccessfully, with a married man and Jenny's story sheds some new light on her own. She learns that while frantically trying to hold on to a deteriorating love, she's denying herself the opportunity to feel a bit of what Jenny felt for B. Sometimes it's not too late to fix the stupid in our lives.
I'm telling you about this book over a month early so that you can have time to long for it, as I did. You want this and you want this book. Put it on your to-read list. Wait for it. Think about it often. When it finally arrives, give it a big hug hello because you're going to be the very best of friends.
I'll leave you with the first of "B's" letters that Jennifer found...to torture you:
I couldn't make you listen, when you left in such a hurry, but I was not rejecting you. You were so far from the truth I can hardly bear it.
Here is the truth: you are not the first married woman I have made love to. You know my personal circumstances, and to be frank, these relationships, such as they are, have suited me. I did not want to be close to anyone. When we first met, I chose to think you would be no different.
But when you arrived at my room on Saturday, you looked so wonderful in your dress. And then you asked me to unfasten that button at your neck. And as my fingers met your skin I realized in that moment that to make love to you would be a disaster for both of us. You, dearest girl, have no idea of how you would feel to be so duplicitous. You are an honest, delightful creature. Even if you do not feel it now, there is pleasure to be had from being a decent person. I do not want to be the man responsible for making you someone less than that.
And me? I knew in the moment you looked up at me that if we did this I would be lost. I would not be able to put you aside, as I had with the others. I would not be able to nod agreeably to Laurence as we passed each other in some restaurant. I would never be satisfied with just a part of you. I had been fooling myself to think otherwise. It was for that reason, darling girl, that I redid that wretched button at your neck. And for that reason I have lain awake for the last two nights, hating myself for the one decent thing I have ever done.
*Hint: If you just can't bare the wait you can always order the UK edition, but I like this cover.
*Quote taking from an ARC of the book and may differ in the finished copy.