Before You Knew My Name…
About the Book:
This is not just another novel about a dead girl.
When she arrived in New York on her 18th birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe, an unidentified murder victim.
Ruby Jones is also trying to start over; she travelled halfway around the world only to find herself lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice’s body by the Hudson River.
From this first, devastating encounter, the two women form an unbreakable bond. Alice is sure that Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life – and death. And Ruby – struggling to forget what she saw that morning – finds herself unable to let Alice go. Not until she is given the ending she deserves.
Before You Knew My Name doesn’t ask whodunnit. Instead, this powerful, hopeful novel asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind? The answers might surprise you.
‘I allow myself to believe I deserve what comes next. The beginning of a life where I take up space, where I belong.’
Before You Knew My Name is not your usual crime novel. Narrated by the victim, this is very much a story about femicide and toxic masculinity. It’s a timely release and the author writes with a unique blend of poetic beauty and thematic impact. The story itself is not plot driven – there is resolution with regards to the crime committed – but rather a slow burn character study on the victim and the woman who discovered her body.
‘And then, one early morning, it ends. There was an I, and it was me. I was at the centre, looking out. Until someone decided to enter the space I had created for myself, take it over.’
More than anything, this novel made me feel sad, and fearful for my daughter and my nieces, that all women still have to take responsibility for their own safety, how they dress, where they choose to jog, what time they go out, in case they accidentally ask to be assaulted, raped or murdered. Through her victim narration, the author has given us all a chance to consider the life attached to a body found by a river. The ripples of her existence and the many ways in which she mattered and still does. She is more than a Jane Doe, particularly to the woman who discovered her body and now has to live with that trauma.
‘For the first time, I understand it’s not only the dead who have lives they don’t get to live out. The people left behind have as many versions of themselves unexplored, as many possible paths that close off.’
I wasn’t as impressed with this novel on a whole as many others have been. I liked its intent, I liked the narrative technique used, and I very much admire the way this author writes. What didn’t work for me so much was the slow pacing with the heavy foreshadowing and I really just didn’t like Ruby at all. I found it hard to tap into any empathy for her. She moved to another country to distance herself from a man, yet didn’t block his number? There were other things about her that bothered me as well and unfortunately it was enough to lessen the grips this story should have had on me. But I am very much in the minority here. If you look up this novel on Goodreads, you’ll see it has an overwhelming number of five and four star reviews. Not bad for a debut! I recommend this one as an ideal choice for book clubs – there is plenty to unpack and linger over.
‘Nothing will ever again be true for this woman. It is never just one life these young men destroy.’
Thanks is extended to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of Before You Knew My Name for review.
About the Author:
Jacqueline ‘Rock’ Bublitz is a writer, feminist, and arachnophobe, who lives between Melbourne, Australia and her hometown on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. She wrote her debut novel Before You Knew My Name after spending a summer in New York, where she hung around morgues and the dark corners of city parks (and the human psyche) far too often. She is now working on her second novel, where she continues to explore the grand themes of love, loss and connection.
Before You Knew My Name
Published by Allen & Unwin
Released 4th May 2021