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Before I Saw You: The delightful and emotional love-story of 2021

por Emily Houghton

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‘Our scars are simply the marks of our stories. They show we've lived our life, and most of all that we have survived it.'- this is one quote which I would love to remember from this book.

Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. So when a new patient is put in the bed beside him, he's eager for someone different to talk to. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now.

Alice has been badly burned and can't bear to look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else see her. She insists on keeping the curtain around her bed firmly closed at all times.

But that doesn't stop Alfie trying to be friends. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice slowly out of her shell, there might even be potential for something more?

I actually liked and enjoyed this book even though it kind of unreal at times.

It was fun to read the interactions between all the characters especially it was lovely to see their friendship and bonding. Nurse Angles a.k.a Mother Angel was amazing but for me, Alfie is the star of this book. His personality was so likable and positive, I feel I might have to learn a few things from him about how to stay positive and happy while going through a tough time. His conversations with Mr Peterson were so enjoyable.

Initially when I read the book, I didn’t like Alice much and I found her grumpy and was annoyed at how she was behaving. But then as I thought more about it, I felt that I was being slightly harsh and that it’s not that easy to go through what she was facing. Being a burn victim and seeing your entire life change is definitely not an easy experience.

The ending was on expected lines but it happened just a bit too fast. I wish there was epilogue to know a bit more and obtain a sense of completion to the story.

Nevertheless, an enjoyable read.

Thank You to NetGalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for this ARC! ( )
  Vanessa_Menezes | Mar 17, 2021 |
Before I Saw You is a winsome contemporary novel from debut author Emily Houghton

Badly burned in a fire and deeply traumatised, Alice Gunnersley, can’t even bear to look at herself, and has refused to speak since she woke. Moved into a rehabilitation ward, she insists the curtain around her bed remain closed at all times, but that wont stop Alfie Mack from getting to know the girl in the bed next door. Alfie has been in St Francis’s Hospital for months, recuperating after his leg was amputated due to a car accident. He rarely stops talking, determined to keep both his own, and his fellow ward mates spirits high, and he’s sure if he asks enough questions, Alice will eventually answer.

Told from the alternating points of view of Alice and Alfie, this is very much a character driven story primarily taking place in the one location. It’s focus is on the connection that slowly forms between the two protagonists, both of whom have experienced life changing events but are very different personalities, and therefore have very different approaches to coping. Alice, a workaholic with no family to speak of and only one close friend who has relocated to Australia, used to being alone, has withdrawn further into herself. Alfie, a passionate teacher with loving parents and a large group of friends tries to remain positive by using humour and focusing on the needs of others, despite his private grief and pain.

As their first tentative conversation progresses to a late night sharing of secrets, It’s no surprise that deeper feelings develops between them. That neither know what the other looks like adds a layer of interest to the attraction, particularly since they are both physically scarred, and worried about the reaction of others to their injuries.

I thought Houghton was sensitive to the trauma her protagonists have, and continue to experience. She doesn’t minimise their darker emotions, but neither does she dwell in them, at least until the last 20% or so where the story gets quite bogged down in the self pity of both characters - honest perhaps, but dull reading particularly when whatever sense of anticipation you may have is poorly rewarded if you are expecting a traditional romantic HEA ending.

Though I thought there was a misstep or two with regards to the plot, Houghton’s skilful portrayal of character and emotions in particular meant I found Before I Saw You to be a moving and engaging read. ( )
  shelleyraec | Feb 7, 2021 |
After a fire at her work place seriously injured her, Alice finds herself in St Francis’s Hospital in a very poor state. She does not even want to look in the mirror for fear of what she might see, and she definitely does not want others to see the monster she has become. Thus, the patients in her ward have to live with the voice coming from behind the drawn curtains. At first, she refuses contact but over the time she realises that old Mr Petersen and especially Alfie Mack next to her are likable people who make staying in hospital a lot more acceptable. Alfie is the good soul of their small community, always funny and entertaining, spreading warmth and hope. At night, however, he is haunted by the accident which made him lose his leg and all the negative emotions he pushes back during daylight. Slowly, the two of them bond, yet, without ever seeing each other.

Emily Houghton tells the story of two people who have to go through a very hard time: the lives they had have ceased to exist from one second to the next and now, they find themselves in a kind of void between before and after. Quite naturally, sharing the similar experiences makes them bond easily, on the other hand, how can you open up to another person and make new friends or even more when you haven’t come to grips with your own situation, yet? The author gives her characters the time they need to adjust and to stretch out a hand.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Even though there is a lot of sadness due to the accidents the characters had to go through and the hardship they have to endure while healing, the plot is full of love and care which makes you believe in the good in mankind and - of course – in love. Beautifully narrated by highlighting the anxieties and thoughts Alice and Alfie go through which again and again keep them from doing what should be done but which is simply a hurdle too high to take at that moment. What I liked most was the fact that Alice and Alfie fell in love other without seeing each other, they can surely say that it is the character that counts and which attracted them.

A heart-warming story providing hope and confidence when life seems to be too hard to endure. ( )
  miss.mesmerized | Jan 22, 2021 |
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