Title: Before I Met You
Author: Lisa Jewell
Published: October 2013 Atria Books (first published July 2012)
Format: ARC e-copy, 448 pages
Jazz Age London, a passionate and forbidden interracial romance, and the unbreakable bond between a bright young woman and her eccentric grandmother come together brilliantly in this gem of a novel, perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, Twenties Girl, and The Chaperone.Fresh out of university, Betty is ready to begin a new chapter of her life in London—one she hopes brings new friends, a big career break, and perhaps even true love. Following her dreams in bustling, grungy nineties Soho, she’s 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 two years after her arrival in London, tragedy strikes and she flees back to the country for the rest of her life.
As Betty tries to manage the ups and downs of adulthood, she’s distracted by a mysterious letter she finds after Arlette’s death—a letter written to a man Betty has never heard of but who meant the world to her grandmother. Will the secrets of Arlette’s past help Betty navigate her own path to happiness?
A heartwarming detective story and a captivating look at London then and now, Before I Met You is an unforgettable story about two very different women, separated by seventy years, but linked by a shared determination to make their dreams come true.
My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Lisa Jewell and I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was definitely intrigued by both the description and the cover. I will say, though, that it does start out a bit slow and I did think of giving up, but am so glad I didn't as once I really got into the storyline, I found I couldn't put the book down!
Told in dual-line narrative, we are given both Betty and Arlette's stories. Betty is a young girl living in the present who ends up taking care of the elderly Arlette at the end of her life. When we first meet Arlette, she is eccentric and sometimes downright mean, but there's something about her that strikes a cord with Betty and so it's almost fitting that Betty would be not only be the one to see to her last days but then to find the mysterious person that's mentioned in her will.
Arlette grew up in the twenties and boy is she a different person than the old woman we first meet. As Betty digs into her past, the story alternates almost seamlessly between the two time periods. Betty moves to SoHo (in London) on her search to find this mysterious heir of Arlette's, and the story just takes off from there. On top of finding this person, there's the mystery of what the relation is to Arlette...something that really had me guessing all along.
There are many parallels between Arlette and Betty's lives - ones that aren't immediately apparent, but that come together in your mind after the whole story comes together. I won't spoil anything for you here - not to worry! I think this is what really makes these characters and their stories more powerful and compelling.
I quite agree with one statement made during the course of the book. Betty had made the acquaintance of an Alexandra, who had connections with the historical society and she said something along the lines of the following to Betty: "You know, if I could go back to any period in time, it would be the twenties - bright young people, jazz, everything new and fresh, and the clothes!" I don't know about you, but I would love to have been alive during the twenties for the clothes alone!!!
I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be checking out Lisa Jewell's other books. I really have fallen in love with the whole dual-time narrative way of story-telling. I just find that it adds a different layer to the overall story and in the case of this book, it definitely worked well!
GIVEAWAY DETAILS - (CLOSED) (Continental US only)
Thanks to Ariel at Atria Books/Simon & Schuster I have one copy of Before I Met You to give away to my readers.
- For 1 entry leave me a comment entering the giveaway. (For fun - share what time period you would want to come back to if you could - my answer is above!)
- Tweet, share on Facebook, or blog for 2 extra entries.
- Please include email address so I can contact you if you win.