Posts Tagged ‘family drama’

New York in the late 1960s, and the four young Gold siblings – Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon – are on their way to see a mysterious fortune teller who is said to be able to tell you the date you will die.

The novel then follows each sibling in turn, starting with the youngest (Simon) and ending with the oldest (Varya) as they grow up and live their lives, and how the prophecy each received affects their behaviour and choices. Simon moves to San Francisco to find love and adventure, Klara becomes an illusionist and magician but is a haunted soul. Daniel tries to make his place in the world a worthy one by becoming an Army medic, while Varya turns to science.

I’m not going to reveal spoilers here as this book deserves to be read with no idea of what’s going to happen. But it’s fair to say that if you knew the date you were going to die, would it affect the way you chose to live? And would the prediction you had received become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Anyway, I loved this book. I felt that each character was brought to life beautifully and was entirely believable. The four lives were very different, but the human emotions and feelings were so well written and described.

Despite the subject which was at times fairly heavy, the book never become clogged down or difficult to read. I enjoyed Simon’s section a lot and was sorry when it ended but then Klara’s part was just as good. The same with Daniel and Varya, both of whom could be difficult to like at times, but never difficult to invest in.

All in all, an excellent read, and I will definitely look out for more books by Chloe Benjamin.

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I am aware that Sophie Hannah is a prolific and popular writer of psychological thrillers, and I have three or four of her books on my shelf. However, Little Face is the first one I’ve actually picked up to read, and I still have mixed feelings about it.

The story gets going immediately when new mother Alice Fancourt goes out for the afternoon for the first time since the birth of her two week old daughter Florence. When she gets home, she is convinced that the baby in Florence’s cot is a stranger, and that someone must have come in and exchanged Florence for another baby – it is this baby that Alice comes to call ‘Little Face’.

Alice’s husband David is initially confused and horrified by his wife’s assertion that their baby has been adducted – he is certain that the baby in their house is indeed their daughter. As Alicen’s conviction grows and the police become involved, David becomes more hostile and increasingly abusive towards Alice.

Completing the Fancourt family is Vivienne, David’s mother, in whose house David and Alice live. It is clear from very early on in the narrative that David is completely dominated by his mother, and that Alice appears to be too. David’s first wife Laura was murdered years earlier, and as a result, Felix – his son from that marriage – also lives with them, though he does not feature heavily in this book.

The chapters alternate between Alice’s point of view, and a third person point of view describing the police investigation. The two main police officers are Simon Waterhouse, a diligent man who has trouble connecting with others; and his boss Charlie Zailer, who has a troubled relationship with Simon.

I am in two minds about this book. On the one hand, I thought the premise was interesting and while I was able to guess part of the ending, I genuinely had no idea about what had happened to Florence. Was Alice losing her mind as David’s abuse was designed to make it appear? Or was she correct that her daughter had been taken and replaced with another unknown baby? And here lies the problem for me – while the ending certainly took me by surprise, it was also a major let-down. Without giving away any details, I will only say that when the truth behind the this is revealed, it makes a lot of what has been said beforehand make a lot less sense. And the reasoning behind what happened is so convoluted as to seem ridiculous. However, the journey to get to the disappointing ending was really enjoyable – it was one of those books that when I put it down, I was eager to get back to it and read more. I do think Hannah made a good job of ratcheting up the suspense and keeping the reader guessing.

I have read other reviews of this book, and it seems that it is generally regarded as inferior to this author’s subsequent work. I’m glad about that because I would like to try more by Sophie Hannah, but I would have been put off doing so by the disappointing ending of this story, had the other reviews not convinced me that her later work is much better.

So would I recommend it? Not sure. I’d recommending giving Sophie Hannah a try I think, but I’m not sure if I would suggest this specific one to start with.

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