Before We Met – Lucie Whitehouse


This book was received courtesy of Bloomsbury India in exchange of an honest review

A red rose, the universal symbol of love and passion, is chopped up into tiny shreds on a dark background. A perfect image for the story to follow and a most appropriate and great cover for the book. It instantly warns the reader that the things that happened ‘before they met’ will not be pretty.

The story begins with Hannah, an almost new wife, going to the airport to pick up her husband Mark. He fails to arrive and she is thrown into the very normal flurry of anxieties about illnesses, missed planes, accidents and so on. As she tries to get details about his whereabouts from his secretary and partner, she is surprised to find that most of them believe both Mark and her to be on a vacation to Rome – one that she had no inkling about. For the first time, a sliver of doubt begins to trickle into her mind and before she realises it, she is completely swept away in its wake. Coming from a broken home, where she saw her mother drive her father away by supposedly meaningless doubts of his fidelity, she loathes herself for letting herself fall into the same quagmire. But as she begins to uncover some very questionable transactions in her husband’s papers, things begin to seem worse that a simple case of sleeping around. Mark telephones and explains his absence, but by then she is on her voyage of discovery and will not be stopped.

The book explores the tried and tested formula of conflicting human emotions in a marriage and works pretty well in most cases. Everybody is prone to some secrets that they would prefer to keep from their spouses. Usually these are confined to exorbitant expenditures on goods that are ‘useless’ or a party with friends where one got thoroughly smashed or equally harmless-sounding ones, which can nevertheless cause extreme marital tensions if revealed without preparing a proper background story.

For Hannah unfortunately, the secrets keep piling on thick and fast before she can regroup or rally her defenses. I empathized with her completely. It is difficult to fault a girl who falls in love with the perfect man, and then follows it up by marrying him only to find him lying to her at every turn. People are not always easy to read, especially when one is seeing them through the rose-tinted glasses of new love. Hence, all the psychological suspense and drama.

I was not very happy with Hannah’s brother Tom, who first urges her to find someone ‘permanently’ and then chastises her for marrying too quickly without actually following it up. It seemed a little high-handed behaviour, but then most elder brothers fall into that category.

The story moves between the past and the present as Hannah reminisces about meeting Mark and other bits and pieces of their time together between uncovering horrible secrets  about him. I thought Hannah’s character and her life history were etched pretty much perfectly. Mark, I had begun to dislike before we even met (pun intended), which translated into doubting every explanation that he gave Hannah for his bizarre behaviour.

The book however, seems to lose steam halfway through, when things begin to happen in very complex ways, picks up again, then manages to get extremely convoluted towards the end and results in a climax that falls a bit flat. It is not very difficult to guess what is happening and who is up to what shenanigans and so the novelty of the big surprise is not as explosive as one would have liked it to be. It is a nice novel with crisp, taunt writing with several psychological twists, but for some reason that I cannot quite put my finger on it was not especially thrilling.

All in all, it is a good read which, while failing to knock your socks off, does manage to help pass several agreeable hours.

Now, if you will excuse me, I must call my Husband and pinpoint his exact location on Google maps – only for general knowledge purposes you see.


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