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Before I Met You [Paperback]

Lisa Jewell
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 July 2012

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?Show More Show Less

Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Century (19 July 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846059232
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846059230
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.4 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 189,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lisa Jewell was born and raised in north London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Her first novel, Ralph's Party, was the bestselling debut of 1999. She is also the author of Thirtynothing, One-Hit Wonder, Vince & Joy, A Friend of the Family, 31 Dream Street, The Truth About Melody Browne and After the Party, all of which have been Sunday Times bestsellers.

Product Description


"Beautiful, moving and unputdownable" (Jojo Moyes)

"Heartbreakingly good" (Marie Claire)

"Must read" (Express)

"Warm and moving with a nostalgic touch" (Star)

"Lisa Jewell just gets better and better" (Grazia)

Book Description

An uplifting, warm and unforgettable story of two women in two different times from the Sunday Times Top Ten bestselling author.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Surprisingly Lovely Read 23 July 2012
As a first time reader of Lisa Jewell, I was a little unsure about what to expect when I received this book as a gift; however, I was very pleasantly surprised with this lovely story, set in the 1920s and the 1990s, which I enjoyed from start to finish.

In the 1990s Elizabeth (Betty) comes to London from her home in Guernsey where she has spent the last few years caring for her step-father's mother, the elderly but glamorous Arlette, with her lacy stockings, her red silk shoes and her well-hidden secrets. After Arlette's death, Betty is puzzled when she discovers that Arlette has left a large sum of money in her will to the deliciously named Clara Tatiana Pickles, of whom no-one in the family seems to know anything about. Betty, who discovers that Clara's last known address was in Soho, sets off from Guernsey and arrives in London, takes a studio flat right in the heart of Soho and begins searching for the elusive Ms Pickles. Whilst searching, Betty meets a variety of interesting people including the tall, dark and gloweringly handsome market trader, John, and the infamous Dom Jones, lead singer of the band 'Wall', both of whom are attracted to the lovely Betty. As Betty says to herself as she looks around her new studio flat: "Real life has finally begun."

In the 1920s we learn about Arlette's life as a young woman - of how she left her family on Guernsey and moved to London, how she got a job in Liberty's, became the muse of a rising artist, became intimately involved with a man who would not have been considered suitable by her family, and became part of the bohemian group of people known as the 'Bright Young Things' with their parties, jazz clubs and drinking dens. But, ultimately, do we learn who Clara Pickles is, and why she was so important to Arlette?
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79 of 83 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you look at my other reviews you'll see that I'm not a great reader of `chick-lit' (hate that term but can't think of a better one), but I've always had a real soft spot for Lisa Jewell. She tends to get lumped in with the chick-lit writers, but I think there's much more substance to her novels compared to some of that genre, and hopefully the new direction she's taken with her latest book will win her a whole new group of fans.

It's the mid-1990s and Betty Dean is spreading her wings following the death of her beloved step-grandmother, Arlette. She leaves Guernsey on a mission to find a mysterious woman who features in her grandmother's will, the gloriously named Clara Pickle. All she has to go on is an ancient last known address and a copy of Polyanna which Arlette had inscribed with the dedication "To Little Miss Pickle".

Betty is adorable - bright, resourceful and funny, she manages to stay just the right side of quirky without becoming irritating. She arrives in Soho at an exciting time and those of us of a certain age will have fun spotting all the 90s references - Britpop and Nirvana, Primrose Hill and the Groucho Club etc. Betty's story is interspersed with flashbacks to Bohemian 1920s London, with its jazz clubs, Bright Young Things and artists painting in garrets (well a cottage in Gideon`s case). Arlette is pretty green when she arrives from Guernsey to stay with a friend of her mother`s. She soon immerses herself into the wild and exotic Soho scene but, as Betty's search reveals, heartbreak and tragedy are never far away.

Jewell usually writes about real people in real situations, set in a period (the nineties and noughties) that I can identify with and look back on with affection.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching and memorable book 22 Jan 2013
For me, curling up with a Lisa Jewell novel is like curling up with a coffee in front of a warm fire - comforting, cosy with the guarantee that it will warm the cockles of my heart. This book did not disappoint. Well-written, vivid and at once warm and funny and poignant and moving. It's a more mature read than some of Lisa's earlier novels - even with a relatively young heroine, it is less `chicklit' in feel and deals with some serious rather than frivolous themes.

I especially enjoyed the dual points of view explored in the book - of Arlette, a young woman in 1920s London, and her step-granddaughter Betty, in 1990s London. There are wonderful parallels and also juxtaposition of the women's experiences that made for a compelling and powerful read. The characters are multi-faceted and realistic and likeable, and I was rather sad by the end of the book that their story had come to an end.

For me, the best part of this book is the sense of place that the author creates. I love the island of Guernsey, so I enjoyed the descriptions of that setting, but it is London that really comes alive on the pages. Having read this book soon after finishing The Paris Wife, which depicts 1920s Paris, I found myself drawing parallels and enjoying the glimpse of life in bohemian London during that era. I think the author does a marvellous job of capturing the heart of London - Soho - without over-romanticising it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars First book I have read by Lisa Jewell
This is the first book I have read by Lisa Jewell,I have looked at a lot of feed-backs,& thought I would give her a try,it's ok,but really not my favourite style
Published 14 days ago by Mrs. S. Peck
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic imaginative author
Fantastic read love this author can not wait to read more.
Published 15 days ago by AM OTHER
5.0 out of 5 stars love it
do I really need to say anything ..... love it
Published 22 days ago by Helen RobInon
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves more than five stars!
This is the first Lisa Jewell novel I have read, but will definitely be reading more now. There are not enough stars to show how much I loved this book! Read more
Published 1 month ago by selliot
3.0 out of 5 stars After I Read You
I bought this book with a load of others as holiday reading last Summer - it's taken me til now to get around to this one. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Esty Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read
I loved this book just as I've loved every Lisa Jewell book I've read so far. Beautifully written, wonderful characters and I honestly couldn't put it down until I knew what... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dizzydomino
4.0 out of 5 stars a great read, couldn't put it down
What I love about Lisa Jewell is that all of her books are firmly rooted in reality and are entirely plausible! This story is yet another winner! Read more
Published 2 months ago by miss d briggs
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely story, wonderfully written
Wonderfully written. I came across this book accidentally but was so enthralled by the story I couldn't put this book down, what an enchanting read.
Published 3 months ago by chelsey
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good read
Had high expectations having just read The House We Grew up In and loved it. Really enjoyed this one too. Moving onto the next Lisa Jewell.
Published 3 months ago by Elaine
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful story and thrilling.
What an amazing story. I could not put the book down. I wanted to keep reading it.
Cannot wait to finish it.
Published 4 months ago by Margaret Wood
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