Lisa Jewell is an author that I was a huge fan of in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Her books were always entertaining, pacey reads and not remotely taxing-perfect escapism. The amount of reading I did took a huge dip during the mid 2000s-I was too busy getting married, having a social life and having a baby. I was aware that Lisa Jewell was still writing, but for some reason never got around to reading the books I had missed out on. Then last year she released Before I Met You. Everyone seemed to be reading it and talking about it. The Daily Mail said it was 'fabulous', Marie Claire described it as 'heartbreakingly good'.
The story spans two very different eras, the glamorous roaring 1920s and the grungy, Britpop addled 1990s. Following the great war Arlette has moved to London from Guernsey to experience all life has to offer. She works in fashionable, respectable Liberty by day and by night she socialises in glitzy jazz clubs with the exotic and artistic London set. As well as the charismatic Arlette, readers are introduced to other brilliantly constructed characters such as artist Gideon, inspired by Arlette's outstanding beauty and clarinetist Godfrey, an attractive West Indian touring with the Southern Syncopated Orchestra. In the 1990s, Arlette's granddaughter Betty also finds herself in London. Amid the wild Soho lifestyle she is searching for the mysterious Clara Pickle to inform her of an inheritance she is due. Romantic and witty, Before I Met You is a fabulous read that will draw you in, a book that is best devoured in as few sittings as possible.
I absolutely adored it. As a fan of all things vintage, Arlette's lifestyle was both appealing and enchanting, without being completely unbelievable. I could also relate to Betty's money worries and struggle to find employment, as I am sure many others reading within the current recession will be able to. The plot was engaging and twisting, quick-paced and well executed.
The key to Jewell's success is in her writing style-accessible, easy to read and yet jammed full of evocative, lush descriptions of people, places and fashions. I read an edition that I chose at the library, but will be buying a copy to keep as I loved it so much. A beautiful novel with all the heart and emotion of those by other popular writers such as Jojo Moyes.