Before You Knew My Name
Written by: Jacqueline Bublitz
Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by: Jo Lucre
Before You Knew My Name is a one-sitting read – as I turned the pages, time became irrelevant and it was hard to disengage from the voice of murdered teen Alice Lee who slowly and magnificently draws you in. Author Jacqueline Bublitz has created something unusual and intriguing, and it’s hard to not picture a fresh-faced Alice escaping to a new life in New York City as her retrospective words capture you. Alongside Alice is the parallel story of Ruby – a girl just like Alice, destined to escape life’s similar disappointments, only she’s older and still alive.
“In the beginning, I disappeared on purpose. Extricated myself from a life I didn’t want, just like Ruby did. But unlike Ruby, I didn’t tell anyone where I went.”
As the story unfolds I found myself inextricably aware of Alice standing strong and pragmatic in death, as the person she always was, but never knew it. The power she had once given to men, who had no right to it, propelling her forward. For a while, Alice is happy. She meets a kindly old man, Noah, who restores her faith in men.
Through Alice’s untimely death, hers and Ruby’s lives intertwine. There’s Alice’s murder and the devastation it brings, and there’s the deep connection Ruby feels to the body she has just discovered.
It’s as if you can feel what Alice feels and reminisce with her about her stolen youth and innocence. But there’s never a sense she is bitter or overly longing for what was.
Before You Knew My Name is a novel that keeps you questioning till the end. It made me think of all the young people who have left in search of a new adventure, or left to escape an unwanted life in search of a new one; and all the lives taken that were sadly not a work of fiction.
It’s the heartbreaking story of a girl whose life once seemingly irrelevant, post tragedy, becomes extraordinary.