Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell
“Before I Met You” is the latest book by British author, Lisa Jewell.
Just out of university, Betty is about to embark on a new life in London. Following her dreams of finding the perfect job, meeting new friends and maybe even falling in love. She’s ready for whatever life has to throw at her, well that’s what she thinks.
In 1920′s London, Arlette, Betty’s grandmother is starting a new life in a time of post war change. Young and charming, she is drawn into a hedonist lifestyle, but two years later when tragedy strikes, she returns to the island of Guernsey, where she remains for the rest of her life.
But as Betty, tries to adapt to her new life in bustling Soho, she is distracted by the mysterious letter that she discovered after Arlette’s death A letter written to a man that she has never heard of but meant the world to Arlette. Will the secrets of Arlette’s past help her granddaughter on her own path to happiness?
“Before I Met You” is only the third book that I have read by Lisa Jewell, so she still is a relatively new author to me. But it does seem that with her other two books, I was unable to pick a favourite but “Before I Met You” has ran straight into pole position claiming the title of my favourite Lisa Jewell book.
Immediately from the initial meeting of Arlette and Betty there is a air of mystery as we wonder what the story is behind the elderly woman with the red silk shoes. Their relationship as it develops is a charming one, as Arlette regales innocent Betty with stories of her youth about dances and music. Whilst Betty is fascinated by the frail old woman, who led a life that she could only dream off.
As the story passes from the 1920′s for Arlette’s life as a twenty year old and 1995, for twenty-two year old Betty. I thought the two characters flowed beautifully creating vivid images of 1920′s London with flapper dresses and smoky dance halls, to the introduction of the mobile phone in 1995. Never once did I find myself, reading the story thinking “Wait a minute, who’s this?” as everything was so detailed and descriptive.
As the leading ladies, both Arlette and Betty are a delight to read. Arlette, as a sophisticated lady who leaves the quiet island of Guernsey to discover the big smoke of London is enthralling to read, joining her on adventures of new friendships and courtships. Betty also goes off on her journey of independence discovering the bright lights of Soho, whilst trying to unravel the mystery of her grandmother. But it seems there are obstacles around every corner making Betty realise that Arlette was not quite the woman she was led to believe.
With a pretty cover of a girl standing on a doorstep, presented in soft shades of purple and turquoise, “Before I Met You” is a beautifully presented and written story. Packed with intrigue from the very first page, it was almost impossible to put it down. A emotional and poignant read about love and loss. Lisa has most definitely taken her writing to a new level, as this book had more twists and turns than a roller coaster, as we join two very different women separated by seventy years but linked by the determination to identify themselves and find their true paths in life.
You can can buy Before I Met You on Amazon and other good bookshops.