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Before you knew my name by Jacqueline…
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Before you knew my name (edition 2021)

by Jacqueline Bublitz

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11413207,013 (4.27)6
An extraordinary, unputdownable debut novel exploring trauma, connection, and our cultural obsession with dead girls.
Member:HelenBaker
Title:Before you knew my name
Authors:Jacqueline Bublitz
Info:Crows Nest, NSW : Allen & Unwin, 2021.
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:New Zealand Author

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Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

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» See also 6 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I was prompted to read this as it has just won the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime novel in New Zealand. the New Zealand born writer moves between New Zealand and Melbourne.
It is the story of two lonely isolated women fated to meet when one of them dies violently. Unbeknownst to either of them they both arrive in New York at the same time, both fleeing relationships from men. Alice Lee,18 years old, has had a relationship with her ex art teacher. When he realises she was actually underage at seventeen, he asks her to leave as he is in fear of being prosecuted. The relationship was far from healthy as he was fulfilling a desire he has had to possess her and film and photograph her for his own sexual gratification. It is a relief when she finds a safe haven with an elderly gentleman in New York.
Our other protagonist is, Ruby Jones a 36 year old from Melbourne. She is running away from an affair she was having with a man engaged to be married and she finally realises how foolish she has been. New York promises anonymity for them both but also loneliness. When out jogging in the early morning,
Ruby finds Alice dead, she is unable to move on and becomes obsessed with finding out who this young 'Jane Doe' is and what her story was. Who perpetrated this violent act cutting her young life short.
The book comes with a powerful message about women's rights to feel safe and as I am someone who at times chooses to walk in the dark alone, in the early morning, it resonated loudly. The book also insists on the importance of the victim being identified and remembered for her life rather than the circumstances of her death and the necessity of bringing about justice.
I found myself returning to this story at every opportunity. ( )
  HelenBaker | Sep 22, 2022 |
I loved the way this story was told. A very unique way of telling this story, focusing on the victim as she lived. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it had poignant and emotional moments that make you think.

Thanks to netgalley for the arc in exchange for my honest review. ( )
  McBeezie | Jul 27, 2022 |
The first thing I understand about the city I will die in: it beats like a heart.
from Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

From the first line, it was the writing that drew me into this suspense thriller, the description of New York City from the viewpoint of the narrator, an eighteen-year-old girl from Wisconsin seeing the city for the first time. Alice is escaping a life of darkness, seeking a new life of independence in the city where she was conceived. As her mother came to New York City when she was eighteen, fleeing an abusive father.

Her mother met a “semi-famous” married photographer who brought her face to billboard fame–and left her pregnant. Her mother never found stability and took her own life. Alice was seventeen when she was groomed and abused by a former teacher. She was his model and his muse and his lover. Until he discovered her true age and kicked her out. “I used to belong to him,” she tells us; “Now I belong only to myself.”

Alice tell us, “My feet have barely hit the pavement, the bus that delivered me here has only just hissed away from the curb, when I feel the pulse of New York, the hammering.”

Alice had found an apartment on Riverside Drive with a man named Noah who wraps her in kindness and treats her like his lost daughter. She has found her first safe place in life, and trust and hope and love. But this hopeful girl is only part of Alice’s story; she warns us that there will be the body of a dead girl along the river. And the stranger who will find that body, Ruby, fleeing an engaged lover, who will be haunted by the dead girl at the river’s edge. Alice will change Ruby’s life, bringing both threat and renewal.

This character-driven suspense read had me hooked. I loved the writing, the characters, the narrative voice.

When the dead speak back, we are seldom loud enough to be heard over the clamor of all that living going on.
from Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

The story raises questions. So many women disappear, so many women found dead. How can we women not know better? We are taught to be polite, to be nice. We are not taught to respond to our feelings. A man comes too near, do we step away? He touches us. We give him the benefit of a doubt. In a public space, it feels safe. Trust me, they tell us. And we do–until it is too late. And after our trust is broken, how do we trust again?

Alice’s voice weaves the story of her life and death, and her life after death, a part of Ruby who can’t forget her. Ruby finds a friend who brings her to the Death Club, others who can’t leave the dead in the past. Ruby learns the disturbing truth: race determines which girls are newsworthy. Alice was pretty, young, and white. She has become national news. Why are only some girls considered worth of justice? Eventually, a friend sees the news stories and gives Alice a name. But it is Ruby who gives her justice.

The traditional suspense plot line is enhanced in Bublitz’s debut novel by her wonderful characters and deeper commentary on women in society.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss. My review is fair and unbiased. ( )
  nancyadair | Jul 25, 2022 |
We know from the first page of this novel that the narrator will die in this city, New York. Alice Lee arrives on a bus on her 18th birthday. She has an address to go to, Noah whom she found online, and with whom she has booked two weeks accommodation. So the first mystery is to find out the circumstances in which she dies. It is fairly clear that she is murdered.

The second character we meet is Ruby Jones, 36 year old Australian from Melbourne, trying to re-establish her life. So the first half of the book is spent in fleshing out these characters, and exploring what they are making of their lives.

It is a little over 30% of the way through the book that Ruby discovers Alice's body and her life is changed forever. Ruby feels that she cannot rest until she discovers who killed Alice. Without her knowledge, Alice is helping her.

There! I am not going to tell you anymore! I hope I haven't spoilt the story for you, but I don't think I have told you any more than the publisher's blurb did. Along the way we think a lot about the vulnerability of women and girls.

This novel reminded me strongly of THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Seebold. That was published in 2002.

From Wikipedia:
It is the story of a teenage girl who, after being raped and murdered, watches from her personal Heaven as her family and friends struggle to move on with their lives while she comes to terms with her own death. The novel received critical praise and became an instant bestseller. A film adaptation, directed by Peter Jackson, who personally purchased the rights, was released in 2009. The novel was also later adapted as a play of the same name, which premiered in England in 2018. ( )
  smik | Jul 19, 2022 |
Another novel I've started a few times but haven't persisted, but what with its rave reviews, I do intend to return to one day. ( )
  Okies | Apr 18, 2022 |
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An extraordinary, unputdownable debut novel exploring trauma, connection, and our cultural obsession with dead girls.

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This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.

When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.

Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.

Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?

A “heartbreaking, beautiful, and hugely important novel” (Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author), Before You Knew My Name doesn’t just wonder whodunnit—it also asks who was she? And what did she leave behind?

Winner of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Fiction NZ
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