‘Receiving a hand written letter is something that always puts a smile on my face, no matter who the sender is.’ Flora Tierney.
When post-graduate student Flora falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year studies she hits a huge predicament; continue a recent affair with her handsome but mysterious lecturer who dazzles her with love letters taken from the ancient tale of ‘Abelard and Heloise’, or chase after the past with her estranged first love?
But will either man be there to support her during the turmoil ahead?
‘Banish me, therefore, for ever from your heart’, Abelard to Heloise.
Letters to Eloise is the heart wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams; a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child. (From: Goodreads)
***Actual Rating: 5+++/5 Gloriously Beautiful Stars***
Life is too short to dwell on things that have gone wrong, so I intend to spend my time trying to make things better.
Letters to Eloise consists of letters from a young mother to her unborn child. When Flora Tierney, the protagonist, found out she was unexpectedly pregnant in her final year in college, she decided to share her stories with her baby by writing letters during her pregnancy.
Flora talked about her friendship with Brooke and Brian, her relationship with River (whom she fell in love with when she was a freshman and he senior), her resentment/forgiveness for Tate (the lecturer of Educational Psychology), and a lot of important events throughout her life.
After the temporary split from River, Flora fell for her E.P. lecturer, Tate, but later discovered a side of him that was completely different from the Tate she loved in the first place. Not until at that moment did she realize the only person she could rely on was the one who pushed her away first, but left no stone unturned to get her back in the end.
With all these twists and turns in Flora’s journey, would she be able to live the life she truly wanted eventually?
First of all, the timeline in this book is quite interesting. It starts in 2013 from River’s POV and tells the story back in 1995 through Flora’s flashbacks.
For starters, Flora was a Psychology major and River a Photography. They were together for about 2 years when River left for London to pursue his professional photography dream. Thus, as a country girl who grew up in a farm in Sussex, England, Flora noticed the subtle change in River’s behavior and appearance. In short, they didn’t think long-distance relationship is going to work so they ended it over the phone after a fight.
After the breakup, Flora met Tate, her lecturer in Educational Psychology course, and he captured her heart by giving her little notes with romantic quotes from The Love Letters of Abelard to Heloise. Little did she know that Tate left out all the tragic parts in Abelard and Heloise’s love story so she fell head over heels for him because those selected words were so heartfelt as if they were meant for her, and her alone.
Old historical literary words, which seemed so perfectly attuned to timeless devotion and restless fervent love, now appear deluded and self obsessed; the typically passionate woman blindly devoted to her egocentric husband.
However, after getting her pregnant, Tate disappeared. He intentionally avoided her at school and never had the guts to meet her in person. Therefore, this left Flora and her unborn baby alone and she had no choice but to get through the entire process. Ugh, what a hypocrite! Recalling his words to Flora disgusts me no matter how true they were.
’Most people in this world are strangers,’ he began. His voice remained low and in rhythm like a pulse. ‘Sometimes there are people in this world that you meet. Most of these people remain just that, passing acquaintances that further down the line you will struggle to remember their names, let alone picture their faces and it all fades into a distant past almost like a dissolving aspirin. Some acquaintances become friends, but again these come and go with only a few remaining consistent. However, occasionally you will meet someone that changes who you are and who you will become.’
Thanks to her friends, Brooke and Brian, she managed to take care of herself with the help of them and some nice doctors as well as midwives. Of course, and her parents. In the meanwhile, she wrote a letter to inform River of her moving on and hoped he’d know how she was doing with the baby. Alongside the possible reunion with River, Flora shared more happy memories during her time with River when they were still a couple and those letters brought a smile to my face.
(Feel free to skip this paragraph to where I marked as “END OF SPOILERS” below.)
Unfortunately, their letters somehow didn’t reach the destination the whole time due to some missed opportunities and both of them thought of the worst scenarios. It pained me so much to watch Flora and River’s hearts broke because of those conjectures. They had a lot of words left unsaid by the end of her delivery and also her life. This book also made me shed tears for both of them, mainly Flora, because after all the reminiscences of her college life and precious memory, she was the one who ended up living a short life. Imagine her not having a chance to witness her baby girl grow up, not having a chance to be a real mom whom she always wanted to be, and not having a chance for River to give her that ring or to see him for the last time before she slipped away.
River sounded so sad. He had been desperate to speak to me, desperate to find me and now it is too late. He had talked about the ring. The ring I had found in the box that day at the spa. The ring I never received. River spent the weekend willing for the special moment to propose, but that moment never came. Something in the conversation that evening, about moving forward, stopped him. Frightened him. Now he wanted the chance to try again.
I had no words to describe how courageous Flora was to make such a hard decision by choosing a life for her child and embracing an end to hers. Seriously, I did not expect any of that to happen AT ALL.
I kept the worst truth from them, needing their positivity and unable to watch them suffer. Losing a child must be horrendous and I couldn’t bear them to think this would ever happen.
***END OF SPOILERS***
(You’re now safe to read the following contents without being spoiled!)
Interestingly, as the story drew to an end, it was back to River’s POV in 2013 again, but this time, our lovely Eloise became a part of it and made everything promising like how it all began. Besides, this story was never about Flora or River or Brooke or Tate, it was all about Eloise from the beginning to the end, which once proved the greatest love from a mother to her child.
No one ever said that life was easy, but now I know it was worth it as I have come to realise and appreciate every moment marks a new beginning, the first moment of the rest of our lives.
A very special feature of this book is that it’s written in an epistolary format, meaning it’s composed of letters entirely. According to an interview with the author, letters are indeed less commonly seen compared to diary or other formats; that’s why Emily chose to tell the story by writing letters from Flora’s POV.
Needless to say, all the letters are beautifully written, with vivid description of Flora’s experiences, and many interesting British idioms/slangs. There’s something about those letters that ALWAYS keeps me wanting more after reading one; each letter tells a story, but at the same time, links to another piece of her memory. So you’ll never fully know what’s going on until you finish the whole book.
Therefore, I’m truly impressed by the overall arrangement of this book since Emily did such an amazing job weaving the plot and tying up the loose ends.
There are a couple of things I absolutely love about this book from the way it’s presented, to how the characters’ personalities develop. To begin with, I love Flora’s friendship with Brooke and Brian; they never judge her when people in school give her weird looks because she’s pregnant. Instead, they’re encouraging and really care about her the entire time. Also, I appreciate Brooke’s sense of humor a lot; her words are always hilarious and the timing is impeccable. *Cue the scene in the clinic* On the contrary, Brian is a guy who’s super shy and never speaks without thinking. To my relief, he sort of serves as Flora’s absent partner during her pregnancy.
Other than Flora’s friendship, I adore her relationship with River so much because they created lots of unforgettably wonderful memories together when they were still a couple before she’s pregnant. Not that they broke up officially, but due to River’s pursuit of professional photography career, they had to take a rest from the relationship.
I am just running out of new moments and am afraid there will be no more with River and me.
What makes this book stand out from the rest in this genre is that Flora’s parents remain unbelievably supportive when they learnt the news of her pregnancy. I mean, most parents in other stories out there will be disapproved of their daughters’ pregnancy, especially when they’re still students or teenagers. Mercifully, this is not the case here! Flora’s parents fully embrace her and Little Eloise (her unborn baby) to their world and ah, picture my astonishment and melting heart.
All in all, all the endearing moments in Flora’s life and the memories she shares with her besties, boyfriend and her parents bring out the best in this book and the sum of them reminds us how beautiful and harmonious our lives are supposed to be.
There’s no exaggerating that I love EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of the story so much that I seriously cannot point out any teeny tiny imperfection or discontent in this book. Although I wish it could end differently, I also know that the story won’t be as memorable and heart-wrenching as it is now without THAT ending. So yeah, I’m not disappointed with how the book’s wrapped up. In fact, this book far exceeds my expectation and I’m beyond thrilled.
．Letters to Eloise is based on the historical true love story of Abelard and Heloise, a teacher-student relationship in the 12th century. The author gives a splendid interpretation of their story through her own characters’ viewpoints.
．You won’t want to miss Flora and her awesome friends’ adventure, her personal stories for Eloise and her deepest struggle for the uncertain future.
．You also won’t want to miss the unbearable heartbreak and all the emotional breakdowns while reading this book, either. They feel extremely real that sometimes I have to make sure I’m still breathing because her letters are gut-wrenching all the time.
．Reading Letters to Eloise is like watching a documentary; the story flows smoothly and never fails to tantalize you with all those letters. It’s one of the very few books that gives me the impression of “one moment I’m still on page 1 and the next thing I know, the story is over.”
．Enough said, We The Kings-Sad Song ft. Elena Coats sums up
Abelard and Heloise River and Flora’s story perfectly.
I’m pretty sure you already know how much I LOVE and appreciate this book by now. The writing style is fairly unique to me, the story is delicately plotted, and everything—literally down to the last detail—is beautifully written and planned out. If this book is not perfection, then I don’t know what is. Hence, Letters to Eloise has officially become one of my top 3 all-time favorites!!!
Flora shows me how incredibly brave and strong our mothers are and how much they’re willing to sacrifice for their children. She also reminds me how grateful we should be for our mothers because without them, we won’t even get the chance to live our lives.
Lastly, I think this is a perfect choice for Mother’s Day reading (I’m not sure when your Mother’s Day is, but ours is on the second Sunday of May!) so prepare yourself for the spectacular dynamics of this story and enjoy an emotional rollercoaster with Flora’s journey!
***HUGE thanks to the author for kindly offering me a chance to read and review this book.***
PS. To read my full review with spoilers, please click HERE ! Thank you!