Sunday, 27 October 2013
Author: Lisa Jewell
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Kindle e-book ARC
Publisher: Atria Books
First Published: October 15, 2013
First Line: "
Book Description from GoodReads: 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?
Disclaimer: I'd like to sincerely thank Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: Before I Met You is one of those books that successfully tells two simultaneous stories, one set in the 1920's and the other in 1995, and keeps the reader interested to find out the big secret that's been hidden for 70 years. Sounds intriguing, right?
Jewell keeps her readers interest piqued as she slowly reveals bits and pieces of Arlette's secret past and I loved that! She adeptly uses a split narrative between Betty and Arlette, in two different eras, to tell the story which helped to keep that feeling of suspense high. Just as you were finding out more about one of the women the speaker changes and you're left in suspense eagerly waiting to find out more. The women's voices were very distinct that the switches between their narratives didn't slow down the pace of the book.
This book, for me, was very character driven. We're introduced to the two main characters, Betty and Arlette. While both of these women were realistically portrayed, flawed and I liked both of them, it was Arlette's, Betty's grandmother, that really kept me riveted. That's not to say that I didn't like Betty, I did, but her storyline and issues with her job, Dom etc felt a little distracting and not nearly as interesting as what happened to Arlette in her youth. It's probably because I don't find the issues in 1995 nearly as interesting as the 'Roaring 20's'. But what really solidified Betty as a good protagonist for me is seeing how she comes into her own and goes from being naïve, scared young woman out in the world by herself for the first time to a much stronger person who stands up for the things that she finally realizes are important to her.
One of the things that I loved about this book is the setting. I loved being transported back into 1920's London where the story of Arlette's youth is brought to life. The clubs, the partying, the clothing, the music ... I liked being able to see the kind of woman Arlette was in her youth before she became Betty's elderly, sick, Alzheimer-ridden grandmother. I really liked seeing her character it two very different lights (the youthful and the elderly) and slowly finding out the pieces of her life that lead her to be who she was when we met her at the beginning of the book.
I did have my own predictions about how things came about for Arlette but there were enough twists in the storyline that I was kept interested throughout the book (not to mention my initial predictions proven wrong).
I suppose if I had to pick a negative I'd have to say that there wasn't enough about Godfrey -- the almost too good to be true musician. I really wish we could have learned more about him or even gotten his point of view at certain pivotal points. He was a compelling character and I adored how he and Arlette were together. I just wish we could have gotten to know him a bit better.
Before I Met You is an intriguing story that deals with the coming of age of two young women, finding friends and true love and figuring out what's truly important. It has a little bit of everything - some romance, some mystery and even some suspense. I'd classify this as a light read. Great for a cozy Sunday afternoon in front of the fireplace. :)
My Rating: 4/5 stars