Lisa Jewell’s novels are always thrilling and full of twists and turns, leaving you hooked until the last page. This book review of I Found You doesn’t contain any spoilers.
I’ve been a fan of Lisa Jewell ever since Steph (aka Hungry Harriet) introduced me to her by lending me a copy of Then She Was Gone. I read it in about 3 days, and knew I’d found an author that I would probably follow throughout the rest of her writing career.
I Found You was written in 2016 and is arguably one of my favourite Lisa Jewell novels yet.
Two women, twenty years of secrets, and a man who can’t remember lie at the heart of Lisa Jewell’s brilliant new novel, I Found You.
Surrey: Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night, she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one.
East Yorkshire: Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him into her home.
But who is he, and how can she trust a man who has lost his memory?
Alice is a bit of a lost soul (and a quirky one). She has three children, 16-year-old Jasmine, 14-year-old Kai, and 6-year-old Romaine, all with different fathers. She also has three dogs—one is hers, one was left by a previous lodger, and one she inherited from her parents.
Alice feels as though she’s never found her way in life. Everything she touches seems to erupt into chaos. She lives in a tiny 300-year-old house on the sea front of Ridinghouse Bay which is dusty, untidy and generally a mad house.
From the corner of the room she retrieves the embroidered cushions she bought long ago to decorate her bed and which have never decorated her bed because she cannot be arsed to take them off and put them back and take them off and put them back and she is really and truly not a bed-cushion kind of person.
Her children and friends think she is even more mad when she takes in a stranger that she’s found on the beach. ‘Frank’, as named by Romaine, has no idea what his real name is, where he is, or how he appeared on a beach in Yorkshire when he has a Southern accent.
In an enticing subplot, Lily Monrose’s husband, Carl, hasn’t returned home from work. They’re newly-weds, married only three weeks. As she tries to contact the people closest to Carl, she realises how little she knows about him. Is his mother’s name Marie, or Maria. Is his sister called Susanna, Suzanne, or Susan? She has no contact numbers for anyone in his family, and she has no money, only the £30 in her purse. When the police don’t seem to be taking her case seriously, she sets off on her own to discover what happened.
But something happened over twenty years ago, back in 1993, that connects both Lily’s and Alice’s stories. As Frank’s memory starts to return, he realises he doesn’t want to know what’s really happened to him in the past.
He needs to find the thing that brought him to this northern seaside town. But as he gets to his feet he has another flash of whiteness and falls back onto the bench. He squeezes his eyes closed tight, desperately trying to find the edges of the hidden image. And then he sees it. A barley-twist pole, a pastel-coloured horse, a girl with brown hair, she goes up, she goes down, she’s smiling and waving and then she’s gone.
I’m yet to be disappointed by a Lisa Jewell novel. I read this one in 2 days, which is quite a feat for a 448 page novel.
What I truly love about Jewell’s writing is how lovable the characters are. Alice is so quirky, slovenly, clumsy, and not at all bothered about her fashion sense. Her house is always full of people. She has lodgers stay in the ‘shed’ which has been renovated to house a bed, a wardrobe and a fridge. But she’s also lonely. Which is probably the main reason she invites Frank in when she sees him sitting on the beach.
Frank could be a serial killer, a psychopath, anything, but we like him. Alice’s dogs take to him, as does her youngest. Her best friend, Derry, thinks that taking Frank in was a ridiculous idea, especially with children in the house, but you can’t help but like Frank.
Lily is pretty unlikeable, but then I don’t feel that we’re supposed to like her. She’s from Ukraine and comes across as very brusque and bossy. Occasionally she makes comments about the strange things British people do, like smile to strangers. She thinks smiling should be saved for family and friends, but in her quest to find out information about her husbands’s whereabouts, she decides smiling is a way of getting more information out of people.
I found the flashbacks to 1993 took some time to get going. It took me a while to understand where the plot was heading, and why it would be important. This time frame focuses on Gray and his sister Kirsty, and what happened on their 2-week holiday in Ridinghouse Bay.
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Header photo credit: https://www.mumsnet.com/books/bookclub/2016/book-giveaway-i-found-you-lisa-jewell