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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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4.3 out of 5
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69 reviews have 5 stars
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  • emarkable original first novel

    An interesting debut novel, Jacqueline Bublitz’s Before You Knew My Name is the story of two young women in New York. Ruby Jones arrives in New York with little money and a dream but a month later she discovers Alice Lee's body - just another Jane Doe. This is not a who dunnit or even crime genre, but a nuanced lyrical exploration of women’s lives. Whilst the book may have a feminist paradigm, it is essentially literary fiction at its finest - the exploration of the meaning and experience of life – in this case missing women and women subjected to men’s violence. A remarkable original first novel with a four-star rating.

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  • an accomplished debut novel.

    “It’s like learning to see a while different way. When you adjust the aperture, narrow the opening of the lens, background objects come into focus. Kind of like you’re pulling the world into you, bringing it closer. Nothing seems far away any more.” Before You Knew My Name is the first novel by Australian/New Zealand author, Jacqueline Bublitz. When she turns eighteen, Alice Lee escapes small-town Wisconsin and arrives in New York City with a room address, $600 cash and a stolen vintage Leica camera. Mostly through luck and the kindness of strangers, she lands on her feet, for a while, at least. And then she is murdered. Also escaping to New York City is Ruby Jones, whose life in Melbourne is “so empty of the usual trappings, so accidentally unconventional, it was easier to take a gap year at thirty-six than it was to stay put and be reminded of everything she didn’t have.” But to begin with, Ruby isn’t finding New York an antidote to loneliness. Early one stormy April morning, needing to escape her claustrophobic studio apartment, Ruby goes for a long run which takes her to a deserted and disorienting Riverside Park, where she stumbles on Alice’s half-naked body lying at the waters edge. Her feeling of guilt at being too late to help transforms into a need to know who this girl, soon to be dubbed Riverside Jane, was. She begins to feel connected to her, deep in her bones. The first real friend she makes in the city tells her “I’ve come to think that intensity, not time, is what connects us. And what could be more intense than being the one to find her?” Days pass and, without witnesses, without a missing persons report, police are making no progress. Ruby is not the only one looking for answers about Alice, but she is subtly steered in a different direction… Alice’s first-person narrative details her time in New York in tandem with descriptions of Ruby’s days, and then delves into the life events that brought each of them to this point. Alice initially baulks at describing her death, although she expresses her surprise and anger at being robbed of her statistically allotted 79.1 years. Ruby and Alice have more in common than is apparent at first glance: both display optimism and a determination to survive, and both are putting distance between themselves and a toxic relationship with a man who is a user. Bublitz’s characters have depth and appeal, and she gives them wise words and insightful observations “Why do people, the good ones, always seem to blame themselves when someone deceives them? Seems to me, when that happens, the bad guy gets away with more than just their obvious crime.” Her descriptive prose is beautiful, evocative: “When the massage is over, she feels light, spacious, as if the man back in that cramped room has somehow untied all her knots, pushed her out to sea. Is that all it takes, she wonders, slightly embarrassed at her own simplicity. Someone taking care of her for an hour, placing her at the centre of things.” The story explores the highly topical theme of women’s right to safety in public places and highlights the disproportionate amount of media attention given to incidents of violent crime involving middle to upper class white girls. Thought-provoking and heart-warming, this is an accomplished debut novel. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Allen & Unwin.

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  • Before I knew your name

    Well written very unique usual story line but I did enjoy it

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  • Thought provoking adventure

    Wow, a sensitive outstanding gem that will stay with you, absolutely brilliant! I totally adored Ruby and Alice, the two main characters. An unbreakable bond develops as Ruby connects with Alice, strangers with parallel lives, travelling on a journey of discovery. This wonderful book delves into the mystery of love and loss, seeks honesty and trust as it explores the struggle to find meaningful relationships. The reflections, beliefs and conversations shared between new friends is so refreshing and honest, it truly cements a place of belonging.

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  • Before you knew my name

    Absolutely brilliant. Beautiful language and style. Could not put it down

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