JoJo Moyes's Book The Last Letter From Your Lover Is Even More Emotional Than Netflix's Adaptation
Leave it to author JoJo Moyes to make us ugly-cry time and time again. Netflix's book-to-film adaptation of The Last Letter From Your Lover is a story of second chances and long-lost love. It also doesn't hurt that the historical romance film features a star-studded cast including Shailene Woodley, Joe Alwyn, Felicity Jones, Callum Turner, and Nabhaan Rizwan.
The film, and its novel counterpart, tells the emotional tale of two strangers who have an illicit affair through love letters and secret rendezvous, only to be ripped apart before their relationship ever gets a fair shot. Decades later, a reporter comes across the couple's letters and convinces her editor to run it as a story in the newspaper — but first, she'll have to put her journalistic skills to the test and track down these mystery lovers to get the full scoop. Whether you are coming into this movie with fresh eyes or have already read the book, here's a quick briefing of everything that goes down in the book version of The Last Letter From Your Lover. Watch out, spoilers ahead!
Is There a Love Triangle in The Last Letter From Your Lover?
It's 2003, and Ellie Haworth's (Jones) career as a newspaper writer has hit a plateau. To make matters worse, she's in love with a married man, who has vowed to leave his wife but hasn't. While helping organize her newspaper's archives, she unearths a love letter from 1960 signed by a person named "B" (Turner). In the letter, B declares his love for a mystery woman and pleads for her to meet him at Paddington station to start a new life together. Moved (and hoping to get a juicy news story out of it), Ellie and her new friend Rory (Rizwan) set out to piece together this romantic love story.
Flashback to 1960, Jennifer Stirling (Woodley) awakes in a hospital bed with no recollection of how she got there. She's told that she was in a car crash, and she's broken several bones and been in a coma. Her husband, Laurence (Alwyn), brings her back home, where he forcefully encourages her to get back to normal life. Because of the crash, Jennifer's memory is foggy, until one day she comes across a letter signed from B, and things slowly start to come back to her.
Since the story's told in dual timelines, readers learn more of Jennifer and B's love story through both Ellie and Jennifer's perspectives. Jennifer recalls the events leading up to the crash: the fancy dinners and cocktails hours; flirty conversations with B, whom she's nicknamed Boot. Laurence keeps Jennifer on a tight leash, so Jennifer and Boot communicate solely through letters for much of their affair. In modern London, Ellie and Rory continue to dig and find new information until there's only one thing left to do: track down present-day Jennifer.
Did Jennifer Meet Boot at the Train Station in The Last Letter From Your Lover?
With the original letters and her recorder in tow, Ellie arrives at Jennifer's posh manor. Upon seeing the letters for the first time in decades and hearing that Ellie has also taken to an illicit lover, Jennifer recounts her life story: She was never in love with her husband the way she was with Boot. Like many marriages in the '60s, Jennifer was expected to have dinner on the table when her husband walked through the door, have sex whenever he wanted, and cater to his social and personal needs, no matter what. Boot was everything opposite of Laurence, and they fell madly in love after he was assigned to report on her husband for the paper. The two made plans to run away together, but she never made it to the train station.
Jennifer tells Ellie of the car crash and the regret she felt after not running away with B. Then came the birth of her daughter, Esmé. Divorce wasn't an option back then, so Jennifer did the next best thing. She blackmailed Laurence with documents that showed malpractice in his company. In exchange for her silence, she was allowed to move out and live a private life and keep his surname while Laurence was allowed to continue his affair with his secretary. Before leaving Jennifer's, Ellie asks the million-dollar question: what happened between Jennifer and Boot? The telephone rings, interrupting their conversation, but not before Ellie catches his real name, Anthony O'Hare.
The book then rewinds to the week following Jennifer leaving Laurence. She takes a trip to central Africa, where she presumes Anthony is on assignment. But she can't find Boot in Africa because there's a war in Congo and all connecting flights have been canceled. After a disappointing dead end, Jennifer goes back home, and years later, she still hasn't found Boot.
How Does Ellie Find Boot in The Last Letter From Your Lover?
After meeting Jennifer, Ellie gets to work tracking down Boot, aka Anthony O'Hare. With a stroke of good luck, she stumbles upon a fellow journalist who shares the same name as Anthony's son — Phillip O'Hare — and sends a cold email asking if his dad ever traveled to Congo on assignment for a newspaper. One email later, Ellie has Phillip on the phone. He tells her his father has worked at her paper, Nation, for the last 40 years. Confused, Ellie explains she did a directory search of all the writers on staff. But he tells her his father is not a writer but an archive expert in the library — the very library Ellie has been pulling old clippings from this whole time. Meanwhile, Ellie's relationship with Rory escalates to steamy new heights, but she still can't shake her feelings for her married lover.
How Does The Last Letter From Your Lover End?
The story comes full circle when Ellie confronts Anthony O'Hare in the library, with his letters to Jennifer in hand. Surprised beyond belief, Anthony immediately questions how she came across the 40-year-old letters. Ellie recounts her findings to Anthony, letting him know Jennifer is still alive and that she hasn't stopped thinking of him. She hands him an address, telling him where he can mail his next letter.
Jennifer and Boot exchange several letters and agree to meet face to face. In the final pages, Ellie smooths things over with Rory and ends her tumultuous affair with the married man. Ellie escorts Jennifer to the garden where she arranged to meet Anthony, and when their eyes lock, it's as if the world stops. They had never stopped loving each other.