Rummanah Aasi
 When I picked up Before I Met You by Lisa Jewel I was in the mood for a read that was similar to Jojo Moyes's writing style and it delivered. While this book won't garner literary awards, I was engrossed in this book and devoured it in a couple of days.

Description: 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?

Review: Before I Met You is a story about two different women living in two different times whose lives converge in the most unexpected way. When she is a child, Betty first meets Arlette, her stylish and glamorous grandmother. Betty has always imagined her grandmother having wonderful adventures and wanted the same type of life for herself when she became an adult. When Arlette has a stroke and then develops Alzheimer's, Betty's parents can't cope and move out, but Betty stays, becoming Arlette's caregiver for several years. Upon Arlette's death, the will mentions a beneficiary none of the family have ever heard of, Clara Pickle, and Betty sets off to London on a search that will take her places she never imagined.
The story goes back and forth between Betty's own rites of passage of a young woman living in the city as well as her search for Arlette's story and Clara, and Arlette's coming of age story in the years from 1919 to 1921 in London. It was fascinating to see what the 1920s were like in London. Arlette's story line comes alive as Jewel sets the stage for London's fashion, music, parties, art, and love. From Liberty's to jazz clubs, parties with black jazz musicians, forbidden romance, sitting for portraits, living a life full of happiness to heartbreak and tragedy, Arlette's life is one that you won't forget. Arlette's story drew me in instantly as I wanted to figure out the mystery behind Clara. Betty's story line is also good and I like how the author made her self-discovery journey parallel that of her grandmother's. Though Betty' story can be a bit melodramatic and I wasn't always happy with the choices she made I do understand her desire to have an adventurous adulthood like her grandmother.  
 Jewell keeps the pace steady, the plot intriguing, and the characters highly relatable. Family dynamics, the search for love and personal meaning, and the simple yet evocative daily motions of each woman keep the pages turning. I was never confused with the switching of the time period and the story came together neatly in the end though I was still curious about how things went after Betty finds Clara. Though I favored Arlette's chapters more, I was still engaged in Betty's story. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction with a bit of romance and mystery.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, sexual situations, including a brief rape scene. Recommended for mature teen readers and up.

If you like this book try: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, Not Without You by Harriet Evans
6 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Oooo love that it's set in London Rummanah! I've only been to London once, but I hope to make it back someday. Such a cool city! This sounds like a strongly character driven book which I love, and I'm glad you were never confused despite jumping between characters and timelines. Lovely review as always!

  2. DaydreamerN Says:

    sounds so interesting. I love when I find little gems like this that stand out from the rest of the YA books.
    Thanks so much for the honest insightful review.

  3. You know I can't think if I have read a book that was set in pre war London. It sounds like a fantastic read.

  4. Chandra Lawrie Says:

    This looks good. I recommend The Red Sun by Alane Adams, is her site. My kids love it!

  5. Now this is one I might have passed on and now you have me wanting to read it. I love a good character book and I'm so glad it wasn't confusing. Adding this one!

  6. I don't usually like stories that jump back and forth in time, or even having two almost separate narratives, but when the pacing is done just right and the characters are relatable, I think it's worth the extra effort.

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