It is always a pleasure to read a novel which takes you somewhere new; a country, a city, an era you are not familiar with. It is a wonderful feeling to become so immersed in these unfamiliar settings – brought so skilfully to life by the author’s writing – that you feel you are right there with the characters. Before I Met You is one such novel.
Written in time-slip format, the narrative moves between London in the 1920s and the 1990s. We follow the lives of the beautiful and charismatic Arlette Lafolley and Betty Dean, Arlette’s granddaughter, who leaves her sheltered life in Guernsey to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and embark on a new life in London. As Betty settles into London life, she is driven by the urge to make some sense of her grandmother’s past: who was the mysterious man she had written a letter to and who is Clara Pickle, the benefactor of her grandmother’s will?
I particularly enjoyed the chapters which were set in the 1920s. The style, the glamour, the hedonistic atmosphere is captured brilliantly by the author, drawing you into the life of The Bright Young People and their seductive lives in the underground clubs of Soho. This was an age when women were ladies and jazz musicians had stage names like Sandy Beach and it makes for wonderful reading! The introduction of the characters of the rock star, the market trader and the interesting neighbour who Betty meets in Soho, ensure that the novel remains fresh, fun, and contemporary.
The mystery of Arlette’s life in London and Betty’s determination to discover the secrets of her grandmother’s past give the novel pace and intrigue. There is also plenty of love interest for the romantic die-hards. The past and the present are interwoven seamlessly – and cleverly – bringing the novel to a satisfying end.
With Before I Met You Lisa Jewell has written a wonderfully atmospheric, entertaining and very touching novel. It is a novel about first loves and last wishes; about discovering the past and finding a future and I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it.
Bravo Ms Jewell. More! More!
Before I Met You is published by Century. Find Lisa at http://www.lisa-jewell.co.uk/ or on Twitter @lisajewelluk