Before We Met – Lucie Whitehouse
Lucie Whitehouse’s third novel is a slow starter but when it goes up a gear it holds a creepy sense of dread that makes it a nail biting marriage thriller.
Thrirtysomething single brit Hannah is enjoying her career in NY, when she meets fellow Brit Mark and they embark on a whirlwind romance, she decides to quit her job, relocate back to London and get married.
Hannah’s new found life of marriage isn’t what is seems; she’s unemployed and spending weeks alone in a huge central London apartment, whilst her husband is jet setting between NY and LDN for his own software company is growing strength to strength.
On a dark, stormy, wintery night Hannah embarks on her regular wifely duty of picking Mark up from Heathrow and to her surprise he doesn’t arrive. As she starts to realise how little she knows about her husband, she begins to suffer from a ‘niggling’ feeling “a strange itching feeling as if she’d put on a rough wool jumper next to her skin”. When she discovers her bank account has been emptied she embarks on a dangerous investigation, however the more discovers about her husband secret life the more her own life unravels and she struggles to determine what is a truth or a lie and what is kindness or deceit.
Before We Met is placed in the niche made popular by ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Before I Go To Sleep’. Whitehouse explores the themes; widening cracks in relationships, how well do you really know someone and marriage dependencies when unemployed. Unlike Gone Girl, Before We Met has a much slower start and the first half of the novel has an overwhelming amount of flashbacks and space filling specifics about Hannah and Marks ‘proper jobs’. The minor characters aren’t fully coloured in and Whitehouse tries and failes hard to make her characters more 3 dimensional, endearing and interesting.
Despite its flaws Before We Met hits its stride when it turns into a dark creepy thriller that is difficult to put down. Adding to the shivers is the descriptions of the wintery dark weather which corresponds with the creation of Marks disturbed mind. Whitehouse displays her skills as a talented writer when she describes Hannah’s growing fear and her discovery of the sand her marriage was built on, “she dreamed strange scraps of stories connected by a single common thread: the important knowledge she had virtually forgotten” Whitehouse writes poetically when Hannah wakes from a troubled sleep.
Whitehouse has successfully created a novel with tension that doesn’t lose grip, but actually tightens as the story develops. With a glamorous protagonist and translantic appeal this book has a film script written all over it.