On the outskirts of New York, Elephant Beach to be exact, Katie and her friends are spending their final summer growing up. Having recently graduated from high school, Katie and co should be full of hope and excitement for the future yet they are all festering in a dying seaside town that is dealing with working class problems, teen marriage and pregnancy and the repercussions of the war in Vietnam.

The most hopeful among the residents is Katie, yet she is the least enthusiastic to let her life in Elephant Beach end.


Firstly, I would like to say a massive thank you to Georgina Moore at Headline Books for sending me a copy of this book. I really do appreciate it.

If I Knew You were going to be this Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let you Go is an absolutely stunning novel which is exploding with atmosphere in an oh so subtle way. The story doesn’t fly off the page and make your heart race with desperate need to know what is about to happen, however, Chicurel does make you want to read on, keep reading ahead and find out more about the lives of those who inhabit Elephant Beach.

You could almost argue that it is very Salinger-esque in that it is a novel where almost nothing happens. The story instead focuses on the intricacies of the family unit, the dynamics of friendship and how they have been impacted by the Vietnamese war; a social study of life in 1970s America.

What is tackled throughout the book is the feeling of loss and loneliness – loss of oneself, loss of identity and loss of faith among many things. Our protagonist, Katie, seems to be bombarded with loss throughout the novel. She never really knows who she is being that she is a child of adoption, her friends either keep moving away, getting married or pregnant – therefore her social circle declines rapidly or the people that she wants to know more of are so changed by war that it makes it near on impossible.

Yet, ironically, it seems that Katie is the most comfortable of all the characters to be left at Elephant Beach. She is cleverly juxtaposed as the character with the most potential yet the one most unwilling to let go and move on.

If I Knew You were going to be this Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let you Go is a striking coming of age novel, one that teaches you that life isn’t easy, growing up is hard but we all have to face the future at some point.

If I Knew You were going to be this Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let you Go by Judy Chicurel is available now.