This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kelly Allen
Before I Met You is written from the perspective of two women; Arlette’s story is set in the 1920’s and her step-Granddaughter’s tale is set in the 1990’s. Both stories begin similarly, as the young ladies decide to move to Soho after growing up on the island of Guernsey. They both encounter love in different ways, and the stories unfold alongside each other gradually over time.
Betty moved to Guernsey when she was very young, and she immediately grew close to her step-Grandmother, Arlette. When Arlette becomes ill and Betty’s friends head to college and off to University, Betty makes the very selfless decision to care for her instead. Arlette suffers from dementia and eventually becomes permanently bedridden, then later sadly passes away. At the reading of Arlette’s will, an unknown person named Clara Pickle is chosen to receive a large sum of money and most of Arlette’s possessions. If, within a year, this inheritance has not been claimed, Betty will be given everything instead. So, lovely Betty decides to find a flat in Soho, get a little job and hunt down the mysterious Clara Pickle!
Meanwhile Arlette’s story unfolds and we discover that she was involved with two men; one called Gideon and one called Godfrey. One relationship was purely platonic (from Arlette’s point of view), whereas the other is simply true love. Their love is tested through racial judgements as Godfrey is black and Arlette is white; a difficult yet changing time wherein parts of society struggled to accept this relationship for what is was: two people in love.
Both women face some difficult decisions when it comes to the men they meet and the obstacles they face to try to find happiness. Unfortunately, for one of them there is nothing but tragedy and heartbreak.
As soon as I started reading Before I Met You, I was totally absorbed by the book and I could not put it down. The characters are beautifully written; each one described effortlessly yet intricately. The intertwined stories unravel so perfectly that each piece of the puzzle slowly slots together. I found myself trying to second guess the mystery, yet I never quite got it right, which made the book all the more intriguing.
I found Arlette’s story thoroughly riveting, and I shed quite a few tears for her. Betty’s adventure in Soho was very interesting to read, and her run-ins with her unusual female neighbour were hysterical. Yet when she becomes involved with a pop star, it all felt a little predictable and generic.
Arlette is definitely the strongest character and the scenes where she is with Godfrey come to life through the words on the page, creating beautiful scenes between the two lovers. I felt there was always an air of tragedy whenever Arlette’s story was at the forefront, this made Betty’s adventures seem dull at times. I was actually adamant that this book would get 10/10 all the way through, yet when it came to the last few chapters and Betty is making decisions regarding love, I couldn’t help but feel it felt a little rushed a little too easy for Betty. Furthermore, I was quite unsettled by the way that Gideon’s actions were resolved, but perhaps that was the point.
Overall, this was an enthralling read. It is gorgeously written, full of mystery, sadness and most importantly love.