Lisa Jewell is one of the 5 authors whom I’ve read for the most number of years now, along with Jane Green and Mike Gayle and a few select others. I’ve been reading her novels from those very early ones like Ralph’s Party and I love it when a new one is released and yet somehow I Found You, which was released in 2016, slipped through my To Be Read pile last year.
Jolted into realisation by the recent release of her 2017 novel ‘Then She Was Gone’ I immediately decided to rectify the situation and delved into I Found You immediately. Since the 2015 release of The Girls, Jewell’s books have taken a slightly different turn. They have become more steeped in mystery and the stories unravel themselves still with the same emotion and wonderful characters as she has always written but they are darker and more mysterious than her earlier novels which were more frothy and light hearted. Perhaps this change in tone had made me miss this one on my kindle but either way, I knew that the quality of the author should be recommendation enough.
This is a story that begins with 40-something single mum, Alice, finding a man sitting on the beach across from her home, he is lost and has no memory of who he is or where he has come from, he cannot remember anything. Alice takes him into her home and takes care of him and helps him to feel safe whilst he waits for his memories to return. She is kind and warm and her children name the stranger Frank and slowly over the days he stays he becomes part of their home.
Elsewhere a young Ukranian woman waits for her husband to come home from work. Married just a few weeks they are still madly in love and deliriously happy. She is new to the country having moved after their honeymoon and she relies upon her husband Carl to do everything. When he fails to come home she finds it difficult to get the police to take his disappearance seriously and when eventually they do she is shocked to find that her husband’s passport is fake and her husband doesn’t exist.
All these people are tied up in a mystery that took place in Alice’s home town in 1993 and the story keeps flitting back to the story of the holiday town in the summer of that year, a mystery that was never solved and the people who left that town scarred for life. It’s how this story links to the mysterious man with no memory and the missing husband that forms the basis for this story.
This book grips you from the outset, it’s short snappy chapters mean you fly through it so quickly as it’s ever so easy when you think of stopping to say, “Just one more chapter, I can manage just one more”. Suddenly you’ve read another 5 and those dishes you swore you’d wash are still sitting by the sink. The characters are really well written and actually the mystery of who Frank is and where he has come from and is he the mysterious Carl who never came home keeps you hanging on through most of the book.
Your mind will spin through all the possibilities of how Frank has come to be in Alice’s home, some you will want to believe to be true, others you will pray are not. You will flit between feeling compassion for him and understanding Alice’s need to care for him and wanting to slap her for being so stupid and bringing someone she doesn’t know into a home with 3 children when really he could be anyone and has said himself he feels he has done bad things. The chapters move between different perspectives and from present day to the fateful year of 1993 and just when you think you’ve go it all figured out you realise you have it all wrong and need to keep going because this book has more secrets yet to reveal. There is that conflict as a reader because you like ‘Frank’ and he is clearly in distress and being wonderful to Alice but there is always that doubt that he could be something sinister and it’s a really difficult thing to not let yourself go and be on his side from the outset.
The setting for the book as also wonderfully atmospheric, the little seaside town which draws tourists in the summer and has beachside cafe’s and little pubs it seems the perfect place but as we learn it was home to a terrible tragedy and this book takes us slowly up to the point where we have it all unfold and it’s touching and devastating and is tackled beautifully by Lisa Jewell.
This was a book I completed in just a little over a day, I couldn’t put it down, I loved it. I really felt like I rediscovered an old friend in Lisa Jewell, one who you haven’t seen for years but whom the minute you see you feel like you’ve never been apart. A solid 4 star read.