I loved “Gone Girl” and I like unconventional thrillers regardless of the writer’s gender. Gillian Flynn is clearly an accomplished writer who knows how to design or orchestrate, if you will, her novel. That is less obvious in Lucie Whitehouse’s “Before We Met.” The setting is a dull as a box of rocks, and the main characters are right out of [what I imagine to be] a soap opera. I won’t say they’re stick figures, but they are clearly being manipulated into their character traits and behavior by the author, and it shows. Hannah marries a guy without knowing a thing about him or his family beyond what he has told her; now, does that sound like a woman who has deep-seated trust issues? I shall not belabor this point, because I don’t want to get into spoiler alerts.
This book reads like it bored the author to write it. It plods page after page after page. When I got to page thirty-something, I asked myself why I ought to continue; I mean, there are so many great books out there in need of entertaining me. Yet something compelled me to keep reading, which I mostly attribute to my interest in studying how other authors write their books. There were places where the author was clearly writing about herself and her own daily routines – not something bad in and of itself, but nevertheless betraying a difficulty creating, in Hannah, a credible character.
Still, something kept me reading. I eventually – eventually – became mildly interested to see where Whitehouse was going with this story, how it would end, how it would stack up in the domestic thriller category. It didn’t take a lot of figuring out, but of course it’s not in the knowing how it ends, it’s in the getting there that makes a story interesting. That was pretty predictable. I did not much change my opinion of Hannah and her provincial mores, but neither did I really ever care for her. I could see her getting another job as a mediocre advertising designer, beginning all over again without really having learned much of anything about herself. To the end a one-trick pony.