Before I Knew You by Amanda Brookfield

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Before I Knew You by Amanda Brookfield

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Women's fiction about a house swap across the Atlantic, with some darker twists and turns.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0141039947

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Two couples agree to swap homes for the summer, urged on by a mutual friend. Sophie and Andrew are teachers who live in London, rather jaded with life and each other, but hoping for a break. Their two teenage daughters are on a music tour, but hope to join them for the last week.

William and Beth are a newly married couple, who live in a gorgeous home in Connecticut in the USA. William is rather older than Beth; he's a Brit who has three teenage sons living with their mother in London, not far from Sophie and Andrew's home. William wants to spend time with his sons in the summer, and Beth hopes to get to know them better.

The first half of the book explores what happens during the exchange - the sights each couple sees, the discoveries they make, the increased closeness for one couple, and the increased stress on the other. It's with some relief that they all head home when the exchange is over... only to find that their lives are irrevocably linked. Things start to fall apart for them all, and none of them can ever return to what they had previously.

I found the book a little slow to get started, although it was easy enough to read a chapter or two each night. Having lived in both the UK and USA, I could certainly relate to some of the culture differences experienced by both couples. My main problem was that while Sophie and Beth are very different characters, I had a hard time distinguishing Andrew and William, who, for some reason, merged in my mind into one person. This didn't matter too much in the early part of the book when the Atlantic separates them, but as their lives become oddly intertwined in the latter part of the book, I found myself somewhat confused at times.

While the style is fairly light, there are some heavy issues touched upon: dark family secrets, addictions, lack of trust, and the deep ties between parents and children, even when separated by an ocean. They're all treated sensitively, and made the book rather deeper and more thought-provoking than I had expected. There are a few shocks along the way before the bittersweet but somewhat inevitable conclusion.

I've read a couple of other novels by Amanda Brookfield in the past, which I have enjoyed so was pleased to be able to read and review this one. Many thanks to the publishers for sending it.

If you enjoy this kind of novel, you might also like Uphill All the Way by Sue Moorcroft, or Evening Class by Maeve Binchy.

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Buy Before I Knew You by Amanda Brookfield at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Before I Knew You by Amanda Brookfield at


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