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Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

Before I Met You

by Lisa Jewell

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Good but not the best by this author. I would say the stories don't meld together as well as I would have hoped between the two time periods. The story is quite slow in parts and although the writing is very evocative of a young girl going to the big city it is not an engaging as I would have hoped ( )
  Felicity-Smith | May 29, 2016 |
Nothing like a JoJo Moyes comment on the cover to make me want to read something---and I agree---this was a beautiful story and I loved how it jumped back and forth in time to try and solve the basic mystery in the book--from 1920 to 1995. ( )
  nyiper | Jun 25, 2015 |
This is a delightful book about a young girl from Guernsey who goes to London after caring for her ailing grandmother for most of her teenage years. She wants to live in Soho where she thinks it will be exciting and she also wants to track down someone that her grandmother mentioned in her will. The book seamlessly goes back and forth between Betty's modern day story and her grandmother's story in the 20s. I really enjoyed both stories and thought that the author did a great job in meshing both parts of the novel together. I did get bogged down a bit in Betty's story but overall, this was a fun book and made me want to read more books by this author. ( )
  susan0316 | Aug 25, 2014 |
This was the first book by Lisa Jewell that I have read, but now not the last.
Before I Met You alternates between the story of Betty (1983-1995) and that of Arlette (1919-1921). Arlette is the grandmother of Betty’s mother’s boyfriend. (Got that?) Arlette lived in London (Soho) in a fascinating period of time – the Jazz Age – when formerly forbidden behavior was more acceptable. But she left all that and went back to her home on the island of Guernsey. Betty lives on Guernsey and dreams of living in Soho. Perhaps this is why Arlette is so fond of Betty at the beginning of the novel. Arlette dies and lives an inheritance to her son and to Arlette. But she also leaves one to an unknown person, one Clara Pickle or Jones. With the inheritance Betty received she moves to Soho and takes it upon herself to find this Clara Pickle. This is when we learn the fascinating history of Arlette.

Betty strives to do well in the “big city”, just as Arlette did years before. Betty finds an apartment in Soho and eventually becomes a nanny to the children of a rock star. Arlette had also found a dwelling in Soho and fell in love with a jazz musician. Both women went through similar exciting times and heart-breaking times.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I first started reading the book. As I mentioned already, I had never read a Lisa Jewell book. It was long though until I was hooked. I came to really care about the characters of Arlette, Betty, and the objects of their love. Two other characters I was rooting against as they were not worthy of these women. When the novel ended I had to sit a spell and reflect upon their journeys. What a delightful, yet at times, heart-breaking story. Thank you, Lisa Jewell, for this delightful tale.

An ARC of Before I Met You was provided by the publisher through GoodRead’s First Read program in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  BettyTaylor56 | Jan 7, 2014 |
“I am living in Zone Three,” she said with a grim smile. John winced sympathetically.

Having looked after an Alzheimer’s-riddled step-grandmother for five years, Betty can’t wait to dash off to London when a will mystery needs to be resolved. She finds herself in 1990s Soho struggling to make ends meet, dealing with a mad neighbour, falling in love with a rock star, and slowly solving a mystery from her grandmother’s heyday.

I love these back-and-forth through history books (e.g. Russian Winter, Blackberry Winter, The Sandalwood Tree). It feels like two stories for the price of one; although, in this case, the two stories felt unrelated for quite a long time – Betty takes ages to get anywhere with her search (which is, perhaps, for plausibility). Both Betty and Arlette are strong, gutsy women with cracks in their veneer; both girls go to London to make their fortune and fall on their feet, but trip over a fair amount. Jewell writes realistic women who screw up their lives, who don’t live perfectly, who don’t always get their happy ending. The men were stronger than in other such books I’ve read (particularly Blackberry Winter) but still mostly boorish and minor; Godfrey is very much the exception, and the racial/social politics was a good serious note to a fairly fluffy read.

Things I loved? 1920s London. 1990s London. London London London. This book knows where it’s set. Oh, and Guernsey too, but I don’t know Guernsey. The London of this book is not quite my London (2010s London), but I know it pretty well and Jewell writes it so enthusiastically – she clearly knows the city very well. Also – Arlette’s glamour – her perfumes, her wardrobe, her friends – she embodied the 1920s London so well. Things which irritated me? The rock star side plot. Betty behaved a bit stupidly on several occasions for no reason that I could discern except that the author wanted to fit some romance into the modern story (the old story had romance aplenty, and well written). 6/10 feels a bit harsh, but the novel lacked something – substance? Grit? I’m not sure, but I came away feeling a bit unsatisfied.

Oh, and that quote at the top? I chose it because I live in Zone Three. And I love it. No sympathy needed (although a little travelcard subsidy wouldn’t go amiss). ( )
  readingwithtea | Dec 18, 2012 |
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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?… (more)

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