Hilary's Reviews > The First Time I Saw Your Face

The First Time I Saw Your Face by Hazel Osmond
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Jul 05, 2012

really liked it
Read in July, 2012

I really enjoyed this, after wondering at first if I could get past my aversion to the theme of tabloid journalism and the deception and betrayal that went with it. Another hero bent upon making himself unforgivable, so the pivot for me was - would he pull it off? However, the set-up is quite clever, and the author might have read my mind in the way moral and ethical qualms were dealt with - reasons, if not excuses, for his extraordinarily dodgy actions - and suitable expiation made on the way to a happy ending. I don't think it is a horrific spoiler to say that journalist Mack Stone is working undercover as nerdy writer Matt Harper to get a celebrity story and invade a family's privacy, but falls for his mark in the process, as she also falls for him - whoever he is. The heroine is particularly vulnerable after a terrible accident, and this really does open an almost unbridgable gap between them. One of the things that kept me turning the pages was to see just how that gap could be plausibly bridged. The novel tackles an unusual and sensitive subject, facial disfigurement, directly and with insight.

The setting is rural Northumberland, beautifully described, and obviously deeply familiar to and loved by the author. There is a lot of local colour- the heroine, Jen, is hunted down to her home on a farm; she works in the library in the local town; and has an abiding talent and passion for acting, though she has lost the confidence even to go on stage with her local amateur dramatic society. CueMack/Matt infiltrating her work, her hobby and her home.

I enjoyed the set pieces in the library - as a librarian, I'm well placed to know that they are pretty authentic, even if serious retraining of some of the staff may be in order (actually, that may only add to the authenticity ;) ). Otherwise, it's all straight from the wonderful comic strip Unshelved. Just one passage of personal discomfort where 'someone from the County Council' had arrived to talk to the staff about self-service and efficiency (but only because I have been that person). The production of Twelfth Night by the Amateur Dramatic Society was very engaging, and the choice of play, with secrets and disguises, very apposite (and preparing us for a similarly miraculous denouement at the end of the novel).

All these themes are gathered together with huge verve and skill. There are two massive plot twists (at least), characters to believe in and root for or hate as required, and the resolution of all these knots in a satisfactory way. I raced through it, really needing to know what happened in the end.

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03/06 marked as: read

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Leah I wish this book were available in the US.


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