Before I Met You is atmospheric and seamlessly entwines a story set in 1990’s London and one set on 1920’s London.
Published by Atria Books on 15 Oct 2013
Genres: Chick Lit
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Having grown up on the quiet island of Guernsey, Betty Dean can't wait to start her new life in London. On a mission to find Clara Pickle - the mysterious beneficiary in her grandmother's will - she arrives in grungy, 1990s Soho, ready for whatever life has to throw at her. Or so she thinks...
In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette - Betty's grandmother - is starting her new life in a time of post-war change. Beautiful and charismatic, Arlette is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But less than two years later, tragedy strikes and she flees back to Guernsey for the rest of her life.
As Betty searches for Clara, she is taken on a journey through Arlette's extraordinary time in London, uncovering a tale of love, loss and heartbreak. Will the secrets of Arlette's past help Betty on her path to happiness
My Recap of Before I Met You :
Elizabeth who is in her early 20’s has spent the last few years looking after her step-grandmother Arlette. When Arlette dies, she leaves a mysterious bequest in her will to a woman unknown to the family. Elizabeth (Betty) takes her own small inheritance and moves to London and goes on a quest to find this stranger who apparently was so important to her grandmother.
My Thoughts on Before I Met You :
Before I Met You flicks back and forth between both women’s stories, the 90’s Soho London and the 20’s Soho London. Very different times but at the same times there are lots of similarities, both young women are arriving from the island of Guernsey, ready and willing to embrace life and experience all London has to offer. I initially choose to read this book because of the 1920’s setting however the 1990’s setting was just as appealing while I reading.
Betty is so human. She chooses to look after Arlette after a stroke left her bedridden and then Alzheimers took its toll. However, she is not too good to be true and while she does it because she loves Arlette, she has her moments of regrets. Her friends are moving on, leaving the Island, spreading their wings and she is left behind.
“Betty felt like the last plum left on the tree, overripe and splitting at the seams.”
When she moves to London after Arlette’s death, it feels like a new and exciting phase of her life is about to start. Her mission to find who the woman in the will is gives her a reason to get up every morning and a purpose to her life. In London, the reality of acquiring a flat, finding a job, trying to stretch your money and making friends are all well explored and made me laugh out loud at times. If you’ve ever lived in a grotty flat as I have done, you will surely recognise this!
“She hadn’t considered the possibility that newly decorated might mean cheap white paint slapped all over lumpy walls. And cork flooring peeling in places. And old venetian blinds given a wipe down with a damp cloth. Not to mention newly replaced bare bulbs hanging from dusty light fittings and nasty Aztec-print sofa covers given a quick spin and shrinking slightly before being stretched back over too-big sofa.”
Oh yes, that sounds all too familiar! Sounds exactly like the first flat myself and my husband had! Betty has an attractive personality that seems to fit with London. It seems like the perfect place for her and soon she makes all new sorts of friends from a famous pop-star, to a fast food co-worker, to a market stall holder. It’s fun and vibrant and I loved spending time with Betty.
But then Arlette’s story brings us to the 20’s. Bright young things, the jazz age, flappers, old style glamour. Sigh, what more could you want! Add in some romantic interest and a love story that you don’t quite know where it’s heading but you know it doesn’t end well and you have a book that has you enthralled.
Both characters are so lively and exuberant that you feel caught up in their lives. They don’t sit back and wait for things to happen, they take chances, they make things happen. The romance elements are what they should be romantic and sweet but with enough spice to give them an edge. The mystery in the will kept me thinking and speculating but it wasn’t predictable until very near the end.
Overall, a fun and atmospheric book. My first time reading a book by Lisa Jewell but it won’t be my last.
Who should read Before I Met You?
Highly recommended to all chick-lit fans and fans of the 1920’s. If you like well developed characters and a feel of place and time from your books, then this one will deliver. Fans of JoJo Moyes, Marian Keyes, Jane Green and Sophie Kinsella should also enjoy this one.
Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.