A fan of Jojo Moyes and all of her books, I was surprised to learn that I had missed reading Last Letter all of these years. (You can read a post about her most recent book here: https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/after-you/ ) I was beyond pleased to finish this lovely story over the past two days, and as always with Moyes’ books, glad to have the tissue box close at hand.
The book contains two stories: one taking place in the early 1960’s and the other in 2003. In the first story we meet the lovely, wealthy Jennifer Stirling a trophy wife of an older husband, locked into a largely loveless and restrictive marriage. She suddenly finds herself swept up in a passionate affair with a globe-trotting journalist named Anthony, experiencing for the first time a wild, uninhibited romance. Jennifer knows, however, that the social constraints of the time make it impossible for her to keep a lover or to leave her husband. Over the months, their love does not dim, but begins to grow stronger; kept alive in a series of emotional raw and startling honest letters that Anthony sends to her. “You are a source of sustenance for me,” he writes “if we are to be allowed only minutes and hours than I want to etch each of them onto my memory with exquisite clarity so that I can recall them in moments” when we are apart.
The relationship deepens and soon the two begin a to dream of a life together. When a chance to start a life together presents itself Anthony begs Jennifer to run away with him, sending a letter asking only that she meet him at the train station where he will be waiting with a ticket for her to join him. But fate intervenes, through a series of near-misses, lies, misconceptions, and accidents the two never are able to start a life together. Their love — and their letters — are shut away and their lives rebuilt as best as possible.
The story then moves forward to 2003, where we meet Ellie. She is a London newspaper reporter trying to bolster a career that has been slipping recently due to her preoccupation with a married man she has begun an affair with. Ellie finds some of the letters Anthony wrote to Jennifer more than forty years prior and something is ignited within her. Ellie becomes obsessed with the letters, their writer and recipient. Using her journalistic skills and contacts she finds first Jennifer and then Anthony. As she works to shed light on their maligned romance, Ellie comes to see that the burning, consuming true love that Jennifer and Anthony shared is not what she has with her married lover. Reading Anthony’ letters sparks a desire deep in Ellie’s heart; she longs to be loved and cherished as Jennifer was. More than forty years after they were written, the heart-wrenching love notes still have the power to change the lives of the book’s characters, spurring them to make up for “missed chances” and avoid their “lives being wasted” any longer.