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Buy Before I Saw You: The delightful and emotional love-story of 2021 by Emily Houghton from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
Book DetailsISBN: 9781787633841
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Book Review: Before I Saw You: The delightful and emotional love-story of 2021 by Emily Houghton - Reviewed by CloggieA (08 Jan 2021)
3.5?s Before I saw You is the first novel by British author, Emily Houghton. The woman behind the curtain isn’t talking. Alfie Mack has been in rehab on the Moira Gladstone ward of St Francis’s Hospital for some time since his amputation and, in between punishing physio sessions, focuses on entertaining the other patients: “People do say I’m like therapy, but better and free”. But he’s been warned that Alice Gunnersley is so traumatised by her injuries that she has stopped talking weeks ago: he’s to leave her alone. Alfie just can’t imagine not talking…
“Alfie lived for conversation. He thrived off connection. In fact, one of the only things that got him through his days was annoying Mr Peterson or catching up on the gossip with Sharon. Conversations were the fabric of his existence on the ward, and without them Alfie could only imagine what a lonely place it would be.”
Perhaps Sister Martha Angles (aka Mother Angel) gives Alfie that warning because she knows he won’t stick to it for long. And it does take a while, but eventually, he and Alice are batting quips and insults at each other, and sharing some intense chats when insomnia or nightmares dog their nights. If Alfie is a little terrified of rejoining the outside world, Alice is depending on surgery to solve her biggest problem: letting herself be seen by anyone at all.
This is very much a character-driven story, and Houghton is talented at portraying the different stages of grief that ensue after a disfiguring traumatic experience. It’s clear that, as well as being further along his grief journey, well into the acceptance stage, Alfie possibly has a much more positive attitude than Alice. The (very abrupt) ending is fairly predictable, and a feel-good one, but something about these characters doesn’t quite connect.
The vehicle that Houghton uses to facilitate the interaction between the two protagonists, a lengthy stint in a rehab ward, also lacks some credibility: the story is clearly set post-2016, but some aspects of the hospital care feel more 1980s, and this might distract a reader with experience in the health system. A sweet story if you don’t look too closely at the details. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Random House UK Transworld.
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