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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting new direction for one of my favourite authors
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...
Published 22 months ago by Denise4891

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A romantic read
This book started and ended well, but the bit in the middle seemed very drawn out beyond what was necessary. I Liked the idea of the story but felt the plot of the rock star a bit clichéd and the plot about Godfrey and Arlette crashed a little. Having said all that it was an easy read.
Published 13 months ago by Julia F.


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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting new direction for one of my favourite authors, 25 Jun 2012
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Before I Met You (Paperback)
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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. I think I'm right in saying that this is her first `historical` dual-timeframe novel and, thanks to Betty's investigations, the two threads blend seamlessly together. Having said that I could've happily read a whole book featuring either storyline (the sign of a good dual-timeframe story). So, thankfully this change of style for one my favourite authors has been a resounding success as far as I'm concerned - I loved it and am really looking forward to seeing which direction her next novel takes us in.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Surprisingly Lovely Read, 23 July 2012
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Before I Met You (Paperback)
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?

Lisa Jewell sets her scenes beautifully and writes descriptively well of the fashions and music of the times, and she has created some wonderful characters for her novel, particularly Betty who is a lovely creation: pretty, bright, slightly kooky and always the optimist - and, although I enjoyed reading about Arlette and her interesting life, I was always glad to get back to the sections about Betty to see how her life was progressing in 1990s London. This is not a novel of great literary weight - and it's not meant to be one - but it is a lovely summer read to entertain you while you relax by the pool, laze in the garden or curl up on the sofa.

4 Stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, 12 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Before I Met You (Kindle Edition)
I read this because I saw it advertised on the tube and was attracted by the setting in London. Actually it vastly exceeded my expectations. I liked the two parallel stories of step grandmother/granddaughter. It is well written and, though the story is not particularly original, there are sufficient twists in the plot to keep you gripped to the end. It would be particularly good for holiday reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A touching and memorable book, 22 Jan 2013
This review is from: Before I Met You (Paperback)
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. Take the following extract:

All she knew was that the day was dying and the night was giving birth to itself, and there was something electric, something magnetic pulling her down Carnaby Street, past self-consciously crazy boutiques, past grimy pubs, through the throngs of tourists and teenage girls just like her, girls from somewhere else with overblown ideas of themselves, girls having a special treat with dowdy mothers and bored father, a day in town with an early lunch at Garfunkel's, overfilled bowls from the salad bar, tickets for a West End show tucked safely in Mum's bum-bag. It wasn't real. Even to Betty's immature, small-town eyes she could see through the fakery and the stage setting. There was something both murky and beguiling beyond this plastic street of Union Jacks and Beatles posters, something grimy and flittering.

By the end of the book, I found myself wanting to visit London and the locations that feature in the story, so alive did the characters feel to me.
Of course, at the heart of the story is romance - that of Arlette and of Betty - and indeed all sorts of relationship are explored in the novel. The result is a touching and memorable book that I recommend to any reader who enjoys romance.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful read from dependable Lisa Jewell, 28 Jun 2012
By 
sam155 (Wales) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Before I Met You (Paperback)
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I love Lisa Jewell's books and always go out of my way to buy any new releases she has brought out.

This was no exception, and as usual, I was immediately drawn in by the likeable characters and warm tone.

Set in Guernsey and London, the likeable Betty shows a wonderful yet non self pitying compassion toward an old lady who she regards as her grandmother. It's not giving too much away that the 94 year old dies, and a surprising mystery takes place when the will is read.

I won't fill this review with spoilers, but as usual, I was very involved with the main character Betty, and again as usual with Jewell's beautifully written novels, it was hard to believe Betty was a fictional character- so alive was she on the page. The parallel story of Arlette, Betty's grandmother, pulled at my heartstrings and left me in tears at several points. Jewell showed a talent here for being able to write in different periods and the scenes set in the 1920s rang with truth and authenticity.

Lisa Jewell is a cut above chick lit: yes she can do the boy meets girl story (Vince and Joy is a wonderful example), but she can also do friendships, parenthood, families and humour. Her writing is contemporary (she name checks eBay and Facebook in her novels), and her characters likeable (you'd want to be friends with them). At the same time, she can do good conflict without anyone being purely black and white.

I would recommend this book to anyone and I am thoroughly looking forward to a re-read in a few months time. In fact, I think this is her best yet. I am still thinking about it many days after I finished reading.

Not chick lit, just a beautifully crafted addictive story, rather beautiful in places.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, heartbreaking, breathtaking page turner., 30 Aug 2013
This review is from: Before I Met You (Kindle Edition)
I'm not sure I can actually do this book justice. It's unlike anything else Jewell has written and that is most definitely not a bad thing. I love Lisa's books, I have done since I first moved to England. But this is so different, so powerful and haunting.

The characters leap from the page and plant themselves firmly in your mind. Betty is adorable and feisty and clever, I think we'd have been friends! John melted my heart and made me swoon, just a little bit (ok, a lot!). Dom made me cringe, as did Amy. I remember the 90′s fondly, I was 18 in 1995 and remember being completely dumbstruck by my first mobile phone!

When we switch to 1920, the transition is so easy, so seamless. Here we meet the young Arlette and her friends. This other world is opened up and I loved every second of it. The glamour, the scandal, the decadence, the hardships, the thrills of this whole new world! I felt like i was right there. Arlette's heartaches became my heartaches. I cried for her and wanted to make it all ok. I really, really cared about this girl who was living in an adult world and doing her best to find her way.

The twists and turns are so gripping, the stories and lives are so tightly woven together. New world and old world, tied together in knots and then the threads so delicately untangled to reveal truths and destinies far beyond what I expected.

If you haven't read this yet, I urge you to.

A beautiful, heartbreaking, breathtaking page turner. 5/5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't recommend this enough, 10 Jun 2013
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Every now and again a book makes me miss my bus stop on the way to work. That's this book. So poignantly sad in places and brilliantly entertaining too, it'll make you wish you'd met the characters, too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A romantic read, 23 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Before I Met You (Kindle Edition)
This book started and ended well, but the bit in the middle seemed very drawn out beyond what was necessary. I Liked the idea of the story but felt the plot of the rock star a bit clichéd and the plot about Godfrey and Arlette crashed a little. Having said all that it was an easy read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Before I met You, 14 Oct 2012
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Before I Met You (Paperback)
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I started reading this book with high hopes and finished it rather disappointed. It's about two women - Betty in the mid 1990s and Arlette in the 1920s. So far so good. Betty nurses her step-grandmother , Arlette, for the last few years of her life in an isolated house in Guernsey. When the old lady dies Betty finds she's been left a fur coat and one thousand pounds and she must track down a lady called Clara Pickle to whom the bulk of Arlette's estate has been left. She has a year to do this and if she fails she gets the money and property which would have gone to the mysterious Clara.

I actually liked Betty as a character. She starts out with a quest which it is in her interests to fail but she is determined to track Clara down and tell her of her inheritance. The story alternates between Betty and Arlette but it could almost have been told from Betty's point of view only. As it is the reader is mainly a few steps ahead of Betty in her attempts to track down Clara. I liked Lisa Jewell's writing style and found Betty an interesting character. I was much less interested in Arlette and I also felt that first two hundred pages could probably have been compressed into fifty leaving the salient facts to come out as the story progressed.

I enjoyed the last third of the book and found the various people Betty came across while living in London well drawn and interesting. I'm not sure I shall be looking for other books by this author but I can understand why she is popular. I don't think this book lived up to its publicity or its description and I did not find it an uplifting or heartbreaking story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Infused with humour yet heartbreaking, 11 July 2012
By 
I Readalot (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Before I Met You (Paperback)
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I haven't read any of Lisa Jewell's novels before but the storyline of this one intrigued me and I almost finished it in one sitting. Guernsey is certainly making its mark in fiction nowadays although in this case very little of the novel is actually set there. It is more about the Guernsey that the young women take with them. I am sure that anyone who has moved from the Channel Islands or even from a small village into a big city themselves will be able to identify with the experiences of Arlette and Betty.

Fairy Tales provide the basis for a lot of modern fiction, for `Before I Met You' `Dick Whittington' fits quite well, at least for Arlette's story. Admittedly she isn't impoverished financially and doesn't go to find her fortune but her insular world has left her impoverished in other ways, she knows nothing about the wider world and her circle of acquaintances has been small, she goes to the big city in search of excitement and real life. Betty's story has more in common with the classic quest as she goes in search of Clara Pickles who no one in the family has ever heard of before, why has Arlette left her a bequest in her Will? As far as the family are concerned Arlette had never left Guernsey.

The 2 stories run in parallel in many respects, chapter 7, set in 1995 ends with the words `Her real life had finally begun and chapter 11, set in 1919 ends with the words `Finally her life had begun'. Music links the 2, Arlette's story is set at the start of the Jazz era and Betty's at a time when Britpop ruled the world and the first person she speaks to in Soho runs a record stall in the market, there are many more parallels and connections for the reader to discover.

`Before I Met You' is at heart a good story well told. It has believable characters that I cared about; it is infused with humour yet is also heartbreaking. Soho becomes a character in its own right as we switch between the Bohemian 1920's to the grungy 1990's, where else could this story have taken place? The dual story structure kept me reading as I wanted to know what happened to the different characters, yes I did have a very good idea of how it would end but it was how Arlette and Betty got there that is important. How does Betty discover what we, the readers, already know and how will it affect the wider family? It is apparent that Arlette always intended for Betty to go on this quest and she leaves clues to help her along the way, who would have thought that a vintage fur coat would prove to be so important?

The novel also brings into question how well we actually know the people closest to us. Maybe some readers will start to wonder about their grandparents, could they have a past they know nothing about?
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Before I Met You
Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell (Paperback - 9 May 2013)
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