Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

pickleI loved this story. A bit of a mystery, two parallel stories, and I loved as the 1920 story plays out coming to an end, as the 1995 story unravels the mystery of what was happening then. Betty and Arlette live on the island of Guernsey, in the English Channel. Right there it was fascinating because I don’t think I even knew there were islands in the channel big enough for towns. And Guernsey is apparently so close to France that there’s quite a French influence.  In 1995 Arlette is aged and her step-granddaughter Betty cares for her until her death.  They were quite close and Betty was always fascinated by Arlette and her boudoir, filled with mementos and decorations that evoked a much more exciting life than the one they led on this isolated island.  It was Arlette who introduced Betty to glamour.  So when Arlette dies Betty takes her small inheritance and moves to exotic Soho of London.  She is on a two part mission-first, to begin a new glamorous life, and second, to see if she can track down the other woman named in Arlette’s will, whom no one has ever heard of before.  So now we have Betty’s story of a young woman in London trying to make it, making connections, doing detective work about Arlette, and unexpectedly forming a relationship with a massive pop star who happens to live near her.  In alternating chapters we have Arlette’s story, which is also of a young woman moving to London and beginning a glamorous life, which revolves around the burgeoning bohemian jazz scene in 1920, which includes a love triangle.
I love stories that are told in this way, and the whole 1920 jazz scene of London was fascinating.  It was amazing to think that Arlette’s family had no idea she had ever spent any time in London at all-she had an exciting, dramatic, heartbreaking story that almost died with her.

There was quite a bit of sadness to Arlette’s story, and some elements of the mystery are not resolved, which I think is realistic.  This was overall a terrific story.  I haven’t read Lisa Jewell for a really long time (possibly since the days when ML and I used to order books from of authors we couldn’t get here) and I think I need to go back and read a lot of her other titles.

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