Friday 14 September 2012

Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is the best-selling author of nine novels, her first book Ralph's Party was published in 1999.  Her latest novel, Before I Met You was published in July this year by Century, part of the Random House Group.

Before I Met You is quite different to Lisa Jewell's previous novels.  It is beautifully presented, I love the photograph on the cover which gives the book a more grown-up feel to it.

The story revolves around two women; Betty and Arlette.

Betty's story takes place in 1990s Soho, London and her step-grandmother Arlette's part takes the reader back to the bohemian jazz-scene of the 1920s.

Betty is 22 and has just arrived in Soho, she has spent the last few years caring for the elderly Arlette, in a crumbling house on Guernsey.

Arlette's will held some surprises for Betty and her family, naming a mystery benefactor Clara Pickles.   Betty is determined to trace Clara and to find out what links her to Arlette.    The story goes back and forth from the 90s to the 20s.   Betty soon discovers that Arlette spent time in Soho too, she was part of the new, exciting underground jazz scene, mixing with black musicians and spending time with the 'beautiful' people.

Lisa Jewell has captured the feeling of 1990s London perfectly, the brit-pop scene, the fashion, the music, the clubs and although 70 years apart, Betty and Arlette's experiences in Soho are very similar.  Both of them are fairly innocent girls from Guernsey, both of them find themselves swept up by the musicians of the day and both of them find themselves falling in love.
Lisa Jewell

This really is a delightful read, the two stories blend perfectly together.  Initially I found Arlette's story a little slow moving and preferred the up-beat and quirky modern-day Betty, but as Arlette's story developed I found myself totally immersed in her world too.  
The supporting characters are extremely well developed, with their own back stories that add so much to Betty and Arlette's life and experiences.

I was fascinated by the apparent freedom that Arlette enjoyed in the 1920s, at times it read more like London in the swinging 60s - with smoky nightclubs and daring fashions.  It is clear that Lisa Jewell has done a lot of research into this era.

Before I Met You is beautifully written, it's very emotional, sometimes quite heart-breaking.  It is so well detailed, the characters are charming, realistic and loveable.   I started off by quite liking the novel, I ended up loving it.

Lisa Jewell has a Facebook page here, and is also on Twitter here.

1 comment:

  1. Great review Anne - I love Lisa Jewell stories - I've just got The Making of Us to read and then I'll catch up with this one:)