Before I Knew You (by Amanda Brookfield)

It was over a couple of years when I first borrowed a book by Amanda Brookfield, which I enjoyed. I picked up another at a charity shop, which I also liked, but then pretty much forgot about her. However, when I spotted another of her books available for review on The Bookbag site, I leapt at the opportunity.

'Before I knew you' (which apparently had a working title of 'The House Swap' for a while) features two couples who agree to swap homes for the summer. They don't know each other but have a mutual friend. Sophie and Andrew are teachers who live in London, rather jaded with life and also with each other, but hoping for a break. They have two teenage daughters who are on a music tour, but hope to join them for the last week. Andrew is musical, also rather vague and self-centred.

William and Beth are a newly married couple, who live in a large, extravagant home in Connecticut. William is rather older than Beth; he's a Brit who has three teenage sons living with their mother in London, not far away from Sophie and Andrew's home. William - whom I regularly confused with Andrew, despite him being rather a nicer person - 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 people they meet, the discoveries they make. There is increased closeness for one couple, and increased stress on the other. Then things start to fall apart for them all, yet none of them can never return to what they had previously.

Although a bit slow to get started, there are some heavy issues touched upon in this novel including dark family secrets, addictions, and the deep ties between parents and children that can never be loosed. 

I found the book thought-provoking and the tricky topics sensitively covered. Definitely recommended.

You can also read my slightly longer review of 'Before I knew you' on The Bookbag site.

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