Book Review: Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

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? (from

I’d probably site Lisa Jewell as my favourite author and have thoroughly enjoyed every single one of her books. Before I Met You is no different.

The book has a duel narrative, one from Betty in the 1990’s and the other from Arlette in the 20’s. Lisa proves she is just as comfortable with an historical setting as a modern one and I loved both ladies stories.

Like many of Lisa’s book there’s a theme of looking for something/someone that runs through the story, and with evocative descriptions of both past and present Soho brought wonderfully alive it’s easy to become fully immersed in both eras. I love the way Lisa Jewell can describe a feeling or thought, without being dramatic or flowery, so perfectly I can conjure the feeling myself when reading.

I also love how her characters are real, flawed, strong and interesting. I adored the relationship between Betty and Arlette. It’s sweet without being sappy. Both are feisty, slightly prickly characters and it’s a mutual respect that draws them together.

Before I Met you is different to any of Lisa’s other books, but I think that’s certainly often the case with this author who grows with each new novel. Fans and new readers alike shouldn’t be disappointed with Before I Met You and I recommend it highly!

Published July 2012 by Century (UK)
My copy was a proof received from the Amazon Vine program for review purposes

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