I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
About The Book
Alice and Alfie are strangers. But they sleep next to each other every night.
Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now, so when someone moves into the bed next to him he’s eager to make friends. But it quickly becomes clear that seeing his neighbour’s face won’t happen any time soon.
Alice Gunnersley has been badly burned and can’t even look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else to see her. Keeping the curtain around her bed firmly closed, it doesn’t stop Alfie trying to get to know her. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice out of her shell, might there even be potential for more?
Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton is a romantic novel with a difference. Set on a ward in a rehabilitation hospital, the protagonists, Alice and Alfie, are in neighbouring beds but haven’t seen one another. Alice has been severely burned in a fire at her office and wants to remain hidden. She spends her days with the curtains pulled tight around her bed, only allowing medical staff to enter. Alfie, recovering from a devastating road traffic accident in which he lost his leg, is the life and soul of the ward and dedicates himself to bringing the almost mute Alice out of her shell.
Alice is a workaholic whose life, prior to the fire, is small. Her best friend lives in Australia, she is estranged from her parents and she lives to work rather than working to live. She carries mental scars from her childhood and the fire deepens these, causing her to teeter on the edge of depression. She has built metaphorical walls around herself and uses the curtains around her bed as a physical barrier. Even the reader is kept at a slight distance from her; she is almost impenetrable and slightly unlikeable at times but is slowly revealed to us as the wall is dismantled brick by brick.
Alfie is the complete opposite to Alice. He is outgoing, gregarious and has a strong bond with the other patients in the ward. He is warm and friendly and can’t initially understand why Alice would choose to remain silent and hide behind the curtains. It is through Alfie that we see the other patients and their challenges and difficulties and it his personality and caring nature which motivates them and keeps their spirits up.
They appear to be complete opposites but as Alfie penetrates Alice’s defences it becomes clear that they are more similar than they initially thought. There are some lovely moments where they reveal their hopes and fears and we really get to know them and root for their burgeoning relationship. Of course the path of true love never runs smoothly, especially when one of them doesn’t want to be seen.
Told from both of their perspectives (one of my favourite narrative structures) and filled with pathos and humour it skips along at a great pace. The ending felt a little rushed but it is a really good character led book which I really enjoyed reading and thought about long after I had finished it. It delves into a myriad of themes and examines vulnerability in both sexes, exploring mental health and emotional trauma in a sensitive and heartfelt way. Recommended.
About The Author
Emily Houghton is an ex digital specialist and full-time creative writer. She originally comes from Essex but now lives in London. Emily is a trained yoga and spin teacher, completely obsessed with dogs and has dreamt of
being an author ever since she could hold a pen.
Emily is available for written features about her experiences and learnings on topics including; dating and the vulnerability of meeting people, self-love, body confidence, processing pain and the physical emotional
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to Bantam Press for providing me with a copy of the book via Netgalley and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for an invitation to join the Blog Tour.