Title: Before I Saw You
Author: Emily Houghton
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication Date: 4th February 2021
CAN YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN?
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. She keeps the curtain around her bed firmly closed, but 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?
I was attracted to the premise of Before I Saw You straight away, partly because I’ve spent a fair bit time in hospitals myself on multiple occasions in the past five years, and after reading it I can confirm how incredibly life-affirming and lovely this book is. The story follows Alfie, in a recovery ward after a serious accident and Alice, who has just been moved to the same ward after suffering serious burns in a fire at her office. Alice doesn’t want anyone to see her but Alfie is determined to get to know her and to help her deal with her trauma and the two begin to form a deep connection.
I actually found reading Before I Saw You a really emotional experience which I know will stay with me for a long time. The characters are fantastic. I loved Alfie’s outlook on life and his genuinely giving personality. He is very easy to like and I expect most readers will be rooting for him from the start, as I was. Alice is a bit different, we meet her at the very beginning of her recovery and she is consumed with anger and bitterness at what has happened to her. My heart just broke for her and to be honest I identified with her in such a strong way. My life changed pretty drastically about five years ago when seemingly out of nowhere I started suffering agonising pelvic pain flare ups along with a variety of other symptoms. The pain was and still is present every day but from 2016 to 2019, every couple of months I would have such severe pain that I would be in and out of hospital for weeks on end because morphine was the only thing that gave me any relief and whilst doctors tried to figure out what was happening. Now, I’m in no way implying that my experience is the same as someone suffering from severe burns like Alice but I have been through numerous traumatic procedures and I still deal with serious pain on a daily basis. The anger and desolation which Alice experiences in Before I Saw You really, really got to me. I just completely understood exactly what she was feeling and it felt so authentic and sensitively portrayed. The illogical but overwhelming hate for everyone and anyone who isn’t dealing with what you are is such a valid response to trauma and I feel it sometimes doesn’t get acknowledged so I really appreciated how Houghton put this across in such an effective manner.
Before I Saw You is so full of understanding, humour and a real depth of feeling that I can’t see anyone fail to be moved by it. The connection between Alice and Alfie never feels rushed or manufactured and the characters that make up the recovery ward are quirky, heartwarming and amusing. Before I Saw You made me both laugh and cry more than once and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a touching and relatable story of finding hope when you feel there is nothing left for you.
Thank you so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me on this tour and organising it. I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.