Before I Met You: Book summary and reviews of Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

Before I Met You

A Novel

by Lisa Jewell

Before I Met You
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2013
    448 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

After her grandmother Arlette's death, Betty is finally ready to begin her life. She had forfeited university, parties, boyfriends, summer jobs—all the usual preoccupations of a woman her age—in order to care for Arlette in their dilapidated, albeit charming home on the English island of Guernsey. Her will included a beneficiary unknown to Betty and her family, a woman named Clara Pickle who presumably could be found at a London address. Now, having landed on a rather shabby street corner in '90s Soho, Betty is determined to find the mysterious Clara. She's ready for whatever life has to throw her way. Or so she thinks...

In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette De La Mare is starting her new life in a time of postwar change. Beautiful and charismatic, she is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But two years after her arrival in London, tragedy strikes and she flees back to her childhood home and remains there for the rest of her life.

As Betty navigates the ups and downs of city life and begins working as a nanny for a rock star tabloid magnet, her search for Clara leads her to a man—a stranger to Betty, but someone who meant the world to her grandmother. Will the secrets of Arlette's past help Betty find her own way to happiness in the present?

A rich detective story and a captivating look at London then and now, Before I Met You is an unforgettable novel about two very different women, separated by seventy years, but united by big hearts and even bigger dreams.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Told in chapters that alternate between 1919–21 and 1995, Jewell unfolds each detail of Arlette's secret past with impeccable timing." - Publishers Weekly

"Family dynamics, the search for love and personal meaning, and the simple yet evocative daily motions of each woman keep the pages turning. Sure to be a popular title." - Booklist

"Beautiful, moving, and unputdownable." - Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You and Windfallen

"What a delightful novel! I was truly absorbed by Betty and Arlette. A wonderful perspective on the curiosity, confidences and deep affection that can exist between the generations. The story is ingeniously and seamlessly balanced within two different time frames, and the care Lisa Jewell devotes to the sense of place and the detailed fabric of each age gives her book a richness that  both charms and moves." - Juliet Nicolson, author of Abdication and The Great Silence: Britain From the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age

"Jewell's many fans should eagerly embrace this story about two different women living in two different times whose lives converge in the most unexpected way... Family

"Lisa Jewell's latest escapist love story is heartbreakingly good." - Marie Claire (UK)

"GH favourite Lisa Jewell leaves the chick-lit tag firmly behind with Before I Met You, a poignant story about a young woman uncovering her grandmother's bohemian life in 1920s London - and finding her own place in the world in the process." - Good Housekeeping (UK))

"This is another emotional clever read from Jewell, beautifully written and populated with carefully constructed characters you'll be rooting for as you race through it... I couldn't put it down." - Sara Lawrence, Daily Mail (London)

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Reader Reviews

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Betty Taylor

Love in the Jazz Age
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.

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Author Information

Lisa Jewell Author Biography

Photo: Lucinda Chua

Lisa Jewell was born and raised in north London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She is the internationally bestselling author of ten previous novels, including The Making of Us and Before I Met You.

Link to Lisa Jewell's Website

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