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Before I Met You: A Novel By Lisa Jewell: A Book Review

Before I Met You: A Novel
Author: Lisa Jewell
Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Mystery 
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: October 15th, 2013
Pages: 464
Source: NetGalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: 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 Review: This novel has two different storylines but are both woven together. It tells the story of Betty Dean, a young woman, who takes care of her old step-grandmother, Arlette, who has Alzheimer’s disease. After Arlette’s death, Arlette decides to give fifteen thousand pounds to a mysterious woman named Clara Pickle, who Betty and her family have never heard of. Because Betty did not want to cut this mysterious woman out of her inheritance, she decides to move to Soho to track her down. The only clue that Betty has is the mysterious letter that Arlette has written to Clara Pickle inside a Pollyanna book.

     The two protagonists are both Arlette and Betty. From Arlette’s point of view, we are taken to visit the glitz and glamour of London’s Jazz Age in post WWI. Arlette is affected by WWI, for she lost her father. From Betty’s point of view, we see London in modern day. The readers get to compare Soho in both the 1920s and the 1990s. Both Arlette and Betty’s storylines compliment each other. Both of them want to leave the Island of Guernsey and experience the bustling of city life. Both of them want to have a career and find romance. Yet, both of their life experiences are very different. Both Betty and Arlette are at first naive, idealistic, and determined to succeed in Soho life, so they would not have to go back to Guernsey. However, over the course of the novel their personalities are different. The author also makes references to how different the historical eras are in music that become important to the novel. In Soho 1920’s, the biggest music was jazz, whereas in the 1990s, it was pop music.

     Overall, this book is filled with romance, mystery, and suspense. It is about loyalty, friendship, and family. The story is a light read, but the beginning is a little slow-paced. However, the two storylines are both fascinating and the protagonists are well-developed and relatable. The chapters switch from Betty to Arlette, and readers will be so immersed in their stories that when it switches point of views, we are left wanting more to find out what will happen to the character. The mystery itself will also keep readers on their toes anticipating if it will be solved. I think this book fits more as a great beach read. I recommend it to readers who are looking for a light, fun, read with two strong protagonists at its center. I also recommend this to college graduates or anyone who is transitioning on making their way out into the workforce on their own for I believe that this book will speak to them.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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