Once again I am faced with a novel with two different story lines interwoven in alternating chapters where the characters have some sort of relationship in common but time goes back and forth. It seems to be that this is the latest fashion for historical novels. I'm not sure I am a fan. I thought it was quite clever the first couple of these I read but now the novelty has worn off.
But it's not just the originality that has gone. It is the inevitable fact that one story is more captivating than the other so you find yourself rushing through the chapters of one just to get to the chapters of the other. So it is with Lisa Jewell's Before I Met You.
One plot line is based around 1920s SoHo London where the first world war has ended and Arlette's life as a member of a bohemian set of musicians and artists is just beginning. Arlette falls in love with the most unlikely of men in the most unlikely of circumstances with the most tragic of endings. This story line is filled with delicious details of a time and place that was new and fresh and young and free. Women were granted freedoms previously unattainable. The very fabric of British society was breaking down and irreversibly changing. It was a fascinating time and I wanted to read this plot line endlessly. The descriptions of the clothing was enough to fill my head with dreams of vintage clothing, complete with gloves, hats, and handbags
Regrettably, my joy was interrupted with the modern day plot line which has Arlette's grand daughter searching inexplicably to find a mysterious benefactor cited in her grandmother's will. I guessed who the benefactor was about 50 pages into the novel which meant that half the book was a complete waste of time for me. I didn't find any of the modern characters compelling and in fact found myself downright outraged by the rock star falls for nanny (but there's a better man) storyline. Surely, Arlette's story proved that this atrocious relationship was ridiculous.
I really wish Jewell would have simply told the story of Arlette and left it at that.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.