I love Lisa Jewell’s style of writing and always look forward to her new books with relish. I’ve just read her latest book, Before I Met You, and I have enjoyed it just as much as all her others. What I particularly liked though was the fact that it was also very different from her other books and was a really refreshing read.
Before I Met You tells the story of two women – Arlette and Betty – who belong to different generations. Arlette was Betty’s step grandmother who she was devoted to and cared for until the day she died. After Arlette’s death though, Betty and her family are surprised, when the will is read, to learn of an unknown beneficiary. With very little to go on, Betty moves from her home in Guernsey to Soho to try and solve the mystery. What follows is an intriguing and absorbing read that alternates between the 1920s and the 1990s as the reader follows both Arlette’s and Betty’s stories.
“Before I Met You is an immensely enjoyable and moving story …”
I loved finding out about both women and reading about their lives in Soho in completely different eras. It was fun to read about the bustle and excitement of the area and compare the differences between the twenties and the nineties. Arlette’s life in the twenties was at times frivolous but also quite tragic as she is forced to make a choice between two different men. Betty also finds herself faced with similar choices in her parallel life in the nineties. I really felt for both women as I found out more about them. I also loved following Betty’s trail to find the mysterious Clara and I enjoyed piecing the pieces together alongside her.
Surrounding Arlette and Betty are a wonderful array of colourful characters – market stall holders, jazz musicians, aging rock stars, to mention just a few – and these really added to my reading enjoyment. Lisa Jewell always creates believable characters that are so easy to like and to become involved with. It was also interesting to compare the characters from the different eras and this also exposed the social attitudes of the times.
Before I Met You is an immensely enjoyable and moving story that had me hooked from the very first pages. I particularly liked the way that the story kept switching between the past and the present and kept on revealing more and more small details to digest and unpick. I also loved the way that the mystery of Clara’s existence was unraveled little by little, and although I had my suspicions about her identity I was still able to be surprised. If you want to know whether she is actually found you will have to read the book. It’s also an extremely heart warming and moving story and it’s a wonderful story that Lisa Jewell has created.
As you can probably tell, I think that Before I Met You is brilliant and I definitely recommend it.
Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell
Published by Century, July 2012
With thanks to Century for sending a review copy.
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