Friday, 10 June 2011

Little Face - Sophie Hannah

'Little Face' starts when new mum Alice Fancourt returns home from her first trip out, three weeks after giving birth to her daughter. Her shock and distress are unimaginable, when she becomes adamant that the baby she left at home with her sleeping husband David has been swapped for another baby - not her own. Of course, no-one, except the likeable but weak Detective Simon Waterhouse, believes Alice, least of all her husband or controlling mother-in-law.
Although Alice is portrayed as a slightly irrational and crazy woman, you can't help but be drawn to her as she tries with increasing frustration to convince the world around her of her sanity. Some of the other characters such as David and his mother Vivienne are hard to relate to as we never see their points of view and their reactions to Alice are often impossible to advocate. As I'm not a mother myself, I cannot even begin to imagine the 'living nightmare' which Alice goes through, so I assume that this book would be even more gripping for mothers who can relate to Alice and her feelings.
As Alice feels more and more isolated amongst her family, David's treatment of her is horrific. It is not something I expected of what appears to be a loving father, and the person who should be Alice's rock in her time of trouble. What makes it even worse is that he gets away with it, twisting it to make Alice seem more crazy than usual. Her desperation and frustration is entirely realistic, as unfortunately this abuse is something totally possible.
The book is also written from the point of view of Detective Simon Waterhouse, as he tries to piece together Alice's situation. As he is the only person to believe Alice, he becomes very likeable and you begin to trust what he says, although his relationships with Alice and his female boss Charlie are sometimes frustrating. Simon is often accused by Charlie of having a 'thing' for Alice, which in a way becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as he becomes preoccupied with proving Alice's point of view to be correct. At the same time, Charlie tries in vain to make her feelings for Simon known, and for them to be reciprocated. Simon cannot allow himself to get involved with Charlie after an embarrassing mistake of a fling some time before, which just makes Simon seem a bit soft and weak in character. These emotional entanglements, for me, got in the way of the plotline a bit. Had they been omitted, Simon would have been a very admirable character indeed.
As the story unfolds and the conclusion draws nearer, the reader is left guessing as to whodunit and how everything fits together. I think this is exactly what makes a thriller thrilling - the process of trying to fit everything together yourself whilst still being thrown clues and red herrings as you go. The desire to find out what did in fact happen to the baby will keep you reading to the end, if nothing else will, at which point all loose ends are tied up.
However, this process of finding out whether Alice was right or wrong and what happened to the baby is rather drawn out. It seems a little like Sophie Hannah is trying to keep you guessing a little too long, and when she eventually lets you know what happened, she says the same thing several times over just in different ways. She could have cut the 'final chase', as I like to call it, down to half the length but still achieved the same effect. The answer is something you probably won't have guessed yourself, so is still quite shocking, but had it been given to the reader more swiftly it may have packed more of a punch.
If you like thrillers you won't be able to put this book down, although near the end the pace slows down a bit which does let the book down. Other than that, it is a good read and something I would recommend, although it's not the type of book I can see anyone going back to read several times again. I won't be forgetting it in a hurry, but I think that mothers would be a more suitable audience for this book. For mothers, I imagine it would be especially engrossing as you would be able to relate to Alice's situation, emotions and reactions a lot more easily.
What would you have done in Alice's shoes?
Summary: A good thriller which will draw you in and keep you guessing until the end
Rating: 4/5


  1. Thanks for stopping over my book review blog. This is a great review even though it is not usually the kind of book I would pick up xx

  2. I couldn’t put this book down until I have read the last page. It was well written from page one until the last.


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