Friday, 26 April 2013

Book Review: Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

Another book that I've read as part of the Vintage Book Club, this one was a real treat!

Here's the outline:

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?

I never would have chosen this book based on the cover, with its muted colours it looks like it's going to be one of those sagas where there's no happy ending, perhaps everyone dying of typhoid at the end, but I was hooked within the first couple of chapters.

Believability/research of subject matter - 5/5
The author did her homework. The clothes, the places, all blended seamlessly behind the story and gave it the perfect backdrop, rather than sticking out sorely. Some really fabulous descriptions, made you think she was describing real items/places.

Quality of writing - 5/5
It was really great to read something that is set in a genre that could be considered 'chick lit' (romantic relationships and a bit of a vintage theme), but that is written in a far superior way. The quality of writing was very good, and the descriptions great - I am going to remember Arlette in that white silk dress, sticks in your mind the way Keira Knightly's green dress in 'Atonement' does. I particularly liked the paragraph describing Betty's first trip into Arlette's boudoir, how evocative! 

Plot - 4/5
I enjoyed the modern day versus 1920s plots, and the way that there was a bit of a detective story going on as well as the lives and loves. It did start to get a bit unhappy towards the end, and I don't normally go for those kind of stories, but it was so well written and the pieces of the puzzle hadn't quite fallen in place, so I had the momentum to get through it.

Satisfaction - 4/5
Well, I knew that the 1920s story wasn't going to have a particularly happy ending whichever way you looked at it, but it wasn't unsatisfying to read about. I think the modern day ending was a little flat for me, I think I wanted Betty to make a bold move on her own, to be left with the sense her story wasn't really started let alone finished, rather than having that romantic end note that gave it more closure. I am not sure the book needed that and would have fit with a more mysterious ending perhaps. 

It was very enjoyable. This is a really good score from me! Only my favourite books that I can read over and over would get a 5.

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, I've been eagerly awaiting your next book review and hoping that it was going to be a much more considerably read for you. I'm pleased as punch to know such was the case and that you have such glowing things to say about this title.

    ♥ Jessica


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