Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

before-I-met-youFormat: E-book galley

Length:  458 pages

Publisher: Atria Books

Source: Edelweiss

From the publisher:

Fresh out of university, Betty is ready to begin a new chapter of her life in London—one she hopes brings new friends, a big career break, and perhaps even true love. Following her dreams in bustling, grungy nineties Soho, she’s 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 two years after her arrival in London, tragedy strikes and she flees back to the country for the rest of her life.

As Betty tries to manage the ups and downs of adulthood, she’s distracted by a mysterious letter she finds after Arlette’s death—a letter written to a man Betty has never heard of but who meant the world to her grandmother. Will the secrets of Arlette’s past help Betty navigate her own path to happiness?

A heartwarming detective story and a captivating look at London then and now, Before I Met You is an unforgettable story about two very different women, separated by seventy years, but linked by a shared determination to make their dreams come true.

Here’s what I thought:

I really wanted to like this book. It had all the elements that I generally enjoy in a work of fiction–a bit of history, a bit of mystery, and a heroine you can root for. London is one of my favorite cities and I was looking forward to experiencing it during two different historical time periods. Unfortunately, the story fell flat for me.

I never really warmed up to either Betty or Arlette, and even the London setting failed to draw me in. Nothing particularly exciting or important ever happens, and I probably could have enjoyed Betty’s story for what it is (coming of age, small town girl in the big city) if that had been the whole book, but the chapters that focus on Arlette’s story kept distracting me from it. Arlette’s story just rings completely untrue, down to the dialogue which is painful to read, completely stiff and unbelievable. Neither of the main characters are particularly likeable, but I actively disliked Arlette.

What could have been a Kate Morton meets chick lit novel falls short of both.  I suppose there are some readers who might enjoy Betty’s story, at least, but I can’t really recommend this one.

Thanks so much to Edelweiss and Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this book.

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3 thoughts on “Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

  1. Lisa

    This seems to be a real trend in books lately, a daughter or granddaughter finding a letter or photograph – something setting her off trying to discover more about earlier generations. And they seem to be told in alternating stories, like this one. I would also have been interested in the setting, but I don’t think I’ll look for it now.

  2. Pingback: Six in Six for 2013 | Too Fond

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