EXCERPT: The Last Letter from Your Lover by JoJo MoyesTuesday, September 25, 2012 13:00
If you’ve yet to read JoJo Moyes‘ The Last Letter from Your Lover, you shouldn’t delay any longer. This is a story of missed opportunities for the life the two main characters have always lacked. Timing is everything, as the old saying goes, and for “B” and Jennifer, nothing could be further from the truth. Your heart breaks each time fate steps in to make coming together more difficult for them.
The story slowly unfolds as Jennifer pieces together what happened before and during the accident that robs her of her memory. She remembers nothing of her life, nor her lover. You go along on her journey, agonizing with her every step of the way.
Then in 2003, it’s Ellie Haworth who joins the search for the lovers and their past. Her life parallels Jennifer’s – almost. There’s one important factor that is missing in her affair, and it takes Jennifer’s and B’s story to make her see it.
When journalist Ellie looks through her newspaper’s archives for a story, she doesn’t think she’ll find anything of interest. Instead she discovers a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband and Ellie is caught up in the intrigue of a past love affair. Despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man.
In 1960, Jennifer wakes up in hospital after a car accident. She can’t remember anything her husband, her friends, who she used to be. And then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for. Ellie and Jennifer’s stories of passion, adultery and loss are wound together.
Now take a few minutes to read the beginning of this wonderful book. You’ll be wanting to make a trip to the bookstore as soon as you’ve finished it.
“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, muffl ed 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 newspaper men outside all morning. I’ll wager she’s at her wits’ end.”
She couldn’t understand what they were saying. The pain in her head had become a thumping, rushing sound, building in volume and intensity until all she could do was close her eyes again and wait for it, or her, to go away. Then the white came in, like a tide, to envelop her. With some gratitude she let out a silent breath and allowed herself to sink back into its embrace.
“Are you awake, dear? You have a visitor.”
There was a flickering reflection above her, a phantasm that moved briskly, first one way and then another. She had a sudden recollection of her first wristwatch, the way she had reflected sunlight through its lass casing onto the ceiling of the playroom, sending it backward and forward, making her little dog bark.
The blue was there again. She saw it move, accompanied by the swishing. And then there was a hand on her wrist, a brief spark of pain so that she yelped.
“A little more carefully with that side, Nurse,” the voice chided.
“She felt that.”
“I’m terribly sorry, Dr. Hargreaves.”
“The arm will require further surgery. We’ve pinned it in several places, but it’s not there yet.”
A dark shape hovered near her feet. She willed it to solidify, but, like the blue shapes, it refused to do so, and she let her eyes close.
“You can sit with her, if you like. Talk to her. She’ll be able to hear you.”
“How are her . . . other injuries?”
“There’ll be some scarring, I’m afraid. Especially on that arm. And she took quite a blow to the head, so it may be a while before she’s herself again. But given the severity of the accident, I think we can say she’s had a rather lucky escape.”
There was a brief silence.
Someone had placed a bowl of fruit beside her. She had opened her eyes again, her gaze settling on it, letting the shape, the color, solidify until she grasped, with a stab of satisfaction, that she could identify what was there. Grapes, she said. And again, rolling the silent word around the inside of her head: grapes. It felt important, as if it were anchoring her in this new reality.
And then, as quickly as they had come, they were gone, obliterated by the dark blue mass that had settled beside her. As it moved closer, she could just make out the faint scent of tobacco. The voice, when it came, was tentative, perhaps a little embarrassed, even.
“Jennifer? Jennifer? Can you hear me?” The words were so loud; strangely intrusive.
“Jenny, dear, it’s me.”
She wondered if they would let her see the grapes again. It seemed necessary that she did; blooming, purple, solid. Familiar.
“Are you sure she can hear me?”
“Quite sure, but she may find communicating rather exhausting to begin with.”
There was some murmuring that she couldn’t make out. Or perhaps she just stopped trying. Nothing seemed clear.
“Can . . . you . . . ,” she whispered.
“But her mind wasn’t damaged? In the crash? You know that there will be no . . . lasting . . . ?”
“As I said, she took a good bump to the head, but there were no medical signs for alarm.” The sound of shuffled papers. “No fracture. No swelling to the brain. But these things are always a little unpredictable, and patients are affected quite differently. So, you’ll just need to be a little—”
“Please . . .” Her voice was a murmur, barely audible.
“Dr. Hargreaves! I do believe she’s trying to speak.”
“. . . want to see . . .”
A face swam down to her.
“. . . want to see . . .” The grapes, she was begging. I just want to see those grapes again. “She wants to see her husband!” The nurse sprang upward as she announced this triumphantly. “I think she wants to see her husband.”
There was a pause, then someone stooped toward her. “I’m here, dear. Everything is . . . everything’s fine.”
The body retreated, and she heard the pat of a hand on a back.
“There, you see? She’s getting back to herself already. All in good time, eh?”
A man’s voice again.
“Nurse? Go and ask Sister to organize some food for tonight. Nothing too substantial. Something light and easy to swallow. . . . Perhaps you could fetch us a cup of tea while you’re there.”
She heard footsteps, low voices, as they continued to talk beside her. Her last thought as the light closed in again was, Husband?