cover image Before I Met You

Before I Met You

Lisa Jewell. Atria, $16 trade paper (435p) ISBN 978-1-4767-0294-0

In Jewell's (After the Party) novel, Betty Dean spent her childhood on the Channel Island of Guernsey dreaming of bigger and better things in London, but she stayed there well into her 20s to care for her ailing grandmother, Arlette. When Arlette dies, Betty's family discovers that she has left a large sum of money to a woman named Clara Pickle at a London address. Nobody in the family has heard of Clara, and what's more, Arlette always claimed to hate the big city. Naturally, Betty jumps at the chance go to London in search of Clara. Though she ends up paying too much for her Soho flat and working a menial job, Betty feels like her life is finally beginning. She strikes up a friendship with rock legend Dom Jones%E2%80%94who just happens to be her neighbor%E2%80%94and gets a gig babysitting his children to supplement her income. As clues lead her closer to the mysterious Clara Pickle, Betty starts to uncover a chapter of proper, taciturn Arlette's life that she never imagined possible%E2%80%94complete with a tragic love story. Told in chapters that alternate between 1919%E2%80%9321 and 1995, Jewell unfolds each detail of Arlette's secret past with impeccable timing. Although the final reveal is a little convoluted, Arlette's tragedy juxtaposed with Betty's journey to maturity and stability takes readers to emotional highs and lows alike. (Oct.)