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Before I Saw You

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For fans of Close Enough to Touch and Me Before You comes a poignant and moving novel about two patients who fall in love as they recover from traumatic injuries in the same hospital ward…all without seeing each other.

Alice Gunnersley and Alfie Mack sleep just a few feet apart from one another. They talk for hours every day. And they’ve never seen each other face-to-face.

After being in terrible accidents, the two now share the same ward as long-term residents of St. Francis’s Hospital. Although they don’t get off to the best start, the close quarters (and Alfie’s persistence to befriend everyone he meets) brings them closer together. Pretty soon no one can make Alice laugh as hard as Alfie does, and Alfie feels like he’s finally found a true confidante in Alice. Between their late night talks and inside jokes, something more than friendship begins to slowly blossom between them.

But as their conditions improve and the end of their stay draws closer, Alfie and Alice are forced to decide whether it’s worth continuing a relationship with someone who’s seen all of the worst parts of you, but never seen your actual face.

A tender novel of healing and hope, Before I Saw You reminds us that connections can be found even in the most unexpected of places—and that love is almost always blind.

400 pages, Paperback

First published May 4, 2021

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About the author

Emily Houghton

3 books202 followers
Emily Houghton is an ex digital specialist and full-time creative writer. She originally comes from Essex but has been living in London for the past 8 years. 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..

Houghton’s debut novel, BEFORE I SAW YOU, is a commercial love story and will be published by Transworld in the UK in January 2021 and by Simon & Schuster in the US. Translation rights have also sold in Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Israel, Poland,

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,049 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,203 reviews40.8k followers
May 4, 2021
Wonderful characters, effective synopsis but unfortunately sudden and dissatisfying ending!

I always keen on reading bittersweet emotional stories take place at hospitals! Five feet apart was the greatest example and I enjoyed both movie and the book based on the movie script ( that was the first, normally it is other way around)

When I read intriguing blurb about two people’s deep connection at the hospital ward without seeing each other’s faces, I clicked, clicked and clicked again! That seemed like my favorite kind of ugly crier, tear jerker, Kleenex needed story!

As soon as I was introduced to both Alice Gunnersly : workaholic, serious, self reliant girl who was badly burned because of a sudden fire at her office and sweet, optimistic, entertaining Alfie Mack whose leg has been amputated after the traumatic car crash, I truly loved both of them.

I was so happy to find a book I could invest with the well written, deeply layered characters!

But... there are so many issues held me back to fall out love with this book:

I loved the unique friendship between characters and the way the author analyze how they deal with their suffer, their stress about taking their first steps to the real world after the rehab time is over. The protective cocoon will be destroyed and they will face the harsh truths of real world which may change entire dynamics of their relationship! But the romantic involvement between the characters is full of cliches, cheesiness. You know how the story will continue and you can foresee the end from the beginning.

The ending didn’t work quiet satisfying for me! It was abrupt, haphazard, undeveloped! These adorable characters deserved better conclusion!

I was expecting something more effective, heart wrenching, powerful, deeply shaking but I certainly got more Hallmark sweetness which is still fine for me! I can still handle the cliches but the quick ending was not appreciable!

I’m giving three sweetest characters I truly adored stars! I don’t feel anything negative about this book. It was still quick, easy read with connectable characters and I still want to try more works of the author. But I wish she could give us more heartwarming, full filled ending!

So many thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for sharing this arc copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
1,975 reviews1,507 followers
October 9, 2020

Alice Gunnersley has been badly injured in an office fire. She’s in the Moira Gladstone Ward at St Francis Hospital for rehabilitation. In the next bed is Alfie Mack who has had a leg amputated following a dreadful car crash. The story is told in alternating points of view which works really well.

I like the interesting and contrasting personalities between the outwardly chatty, cheerful and outgoing Alfie and the solitary, fiercely independent and career driven Alice. However, they are both in physical and emotional pain and I like how they draw that out of each other. The characters are really good (except Alice’s mother) and there is wonderful camaraderie on the ward with Alfie it’s epicentre. This is a good examination of healing, it’s sweet in places, very cheesy at others and yes, it’s predictable although that’s not an implied criticism at all!

My reservations lie in the fact that it drags on a bit in places and gets a bit repetitive yet the ending is abrupt and rushed which is a real pity. We build up to this ending and then it’s over in a flash!

Overall, an enjoyable, quick read

With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK/Transworld for the arc for an honest review.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,293 reviews35k followers
May 1, 2021
"Our scars are simply the marks of our stories. They show we've lived a great life, and most of all that we have survived it. Don't hide your story away in the shadows."

Alice Gunnersley and Alfie Mack have both been horribly injured and are long term residents of St. Francis’s Hospital. They are extremely near yet separated by a curtain. Alice does not want to be bothered but Alfie is social and a big talker, eventually he wears her down and the two begin talking. There are there for each other (really, where else can they be, they are in beds next to each other), They confide in each other, provide encouragement, and even share some laughs.

A friendship blooms...and keeps blooming. But will they continue their friendship outside of the hospital?????

This is a charming book but deals with real issues such as grief, loss of friends, survivors’ guilt, embarrassment, pain, healing, fear of leaving the hospital, and looking at the beauty within someone. I thought it was touching how they held hands to support each other with dealing with painful issues as well as physical pain. I loved that the liked each other without even seeing each other. This is beneficial as both have a lot of healing to do both physically and emotionally.

"So you want to pretend to be happy for other people? To get friends? Popularity? At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what other people think of you if you're cut up and bleeding on the inside."

The book is told through Alice and Alfie's alternating POV chapters. Both were likeable characters. Alice was guarded and distant in the beginning but who could blame her? Not me. Alfie is instantly likeable with his wit and personality. I enjoyed watching both interact and often had a smile on my face while reading. When not smiling, I felt them as the struggled with recovering, moving on and leaving the hospital where they felt safe.

This book was a nice and refreshing change of pace. It drew me in, and I enjoyed spending time with these two characters. This was an enjoyable debut novel by Houghton. I thought she did a tremendous job showing what each character was going through. I found this book to be thought provoking, charming and hopeful.

Thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com
Profile Image for Lauren.
111 reviews54 followers
October 4, 2020
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this advanced readers copy.

"Our scars are simply the marks of our stories. They show we've lived our life, and most of all that we have survived it. Don't hide your story away in the shadows"

If I am being honest this book is pretty slow.

After an fire in her building Alice, having suffered terrible burns finds herself in the hospital recovering, physically and mentally scarred from the events she finds herself not talking. In stark contrast to her bed neighbour behind the curtain, an amputee following a car accident Alfie, who doesn’t stop talking. The two eventually find themselves becoming friends, talking about their traumatic experiences and slowly falling for each other only thing is they have never actually seen each other.

Look the book is essentially just a lot of sitting around and talking. It takes a heavy emphasis on internal healing and hence there it was heavy on the internal monologue. Whilst it is obviously a very important topic to deal with, recovering and learning to love yourself again it felt very longwinded at times and made it a bit hard for me to get through. I did enjoy how rich the characters backstories were, it really made you feel for them and added to their character a lot.

It was lacking in the romance area. In the time they had fallen for each other it honestly wasn’t that convincing that they had. They had had a few conversations and held hands once or so and all of a sudden they were in love. I get that the whole concept was meant to be them falling in love without ever having even seen each other I just don’t know if it was really pulled off. Moreover you read a book which is the most slow burn romance you have ever read for them to not even kiss??

Overall though the characters were pretty good, it was quite funny and I did enjoy myself reading it at times I just wished it wasn’t as slow and repetitive.
Profile Image for Meags.
2,114 reviews377 followers
July 16, 2021
4 Stars

I love finishing a debut novel and thinking, I can’t wait to read what this author writes next. For me, that speaks volumes, not only to my enjoyment of the story, but also to an author’s (in this case Emily Houghton’s) writing style and “voice”, as it were.

Before I Saw You had one of the most enticing synopses of the year. The story follows two strangers, Alice and Alfie, as they meet in a hospital recovery ward, healing in adjoining beds, divided by only a curtain, after both have had their lives irrevocably altered by injuries that caused major physical harm and emotional upheaval in their lives.

Needless to say, my interest was piqued by this premise. I couldn’t wait to not only read about these two people growing close during a time that is undoubtedly the toughest of their lives, but also to witness their individual journeys through what was undeniably a gruelling and emotional trek through the 5 stages of grief, as personally experienced by each of them post-trauma.

I feel Houghton handle the hurt and healing themes here beautifully. Although I’ve never experienced something as life-altering as the physical and emotional ordeals Alice and Alfie experienced, I have had my fair share of experience dealing with chronic illness for the past decade. As such, I found myself relating on a deep and personal level to some of the thoughts and feelings Alice and Alfie experienced during the various stages of their recovery, especially in terms of those emotional hurdles that came after the physical parts of their recovery was done—when most people expect you to be fine because you’re physically fine, or so it seems.

Frankly, the mental health and chronic health rep here, in relation to issues relating to anxiety, depression, inclusion and even body image, for me, were thoughtfully and knowledgeably executed, obviously by an author who was pulling from honest life-experience. That in itself went a long way to making this story more nuanced and remarkable.

Alice and Alfie’s story was a true pleasure to read, and I’m sure theirs will be a story that won’t stray far from my thoughts any time soon.
Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
September 2, 2021
4 I loved it STARS!

Alfie and Alice have both had serious accidents that lead them to both a hospital rehab unit. Alfie is the kind of guy that is always the heart of action, whether it be sports or friends lives; his new limitations have him wondering if he has a place in the world as he once had. Despite his grieving and frustration, he manages to encourage others on the floor, who are struggling with their demons as they make new adjustments. Alice has a different situation, her accident has caused her to be disfigured and she can't accept that she will have to reestablish herself (in her own perception) as a leader as she always relied on her fit body and well groomed presentation to her clients and co-workers to ensure her professional demeanor.

Alfie makes it a personal matter to bring Alice to a place of self-acceptance. This doesn't always work and there are bitter disagreements at times. With only a curtain to separate them, there are days of silence. Slowly, each realizes that their more alike than they different. Will that be enough?

This was a fun and light-hearted read despite the situations the characters were in. The author is talented. I connected with the characters and empathized with their struggles.

That said, the author dropped the ball when it comes to how physical therapy works in that kind of setting. I say that as an individual, who has had some intense therapy in a hospital setting. They don't let you lie in a bed for days or weeks without a session unless the UK is wildly different than the U.S. If that was ignored for the sake of the story then don't mention the long delays in getting rehab! Frankly, for the sake of the person, they wouldn't benefit from just lying around. So, minus a star for failing to do proper research on how rehabilitation works. Likewise for stating incorrect protocols as it pertained to the story.

Overall, an engaging meet cute romance story.
Profile Image for Angelica.
805 reviews1,131 followers
Want to read
July 20, 2020
can 2021 just come already. I'm tired of 2020
Profile Image for frau.gedankenreich.
218 reviews71 followers
August 2, 2021
Zwei Menschen die schwer am Leben zu tragen haben und deren Körper aus unterschiedlichen Gründen entstellt sind; Bettnachbarn auf der Rehastation eines Krankenhauses, verlieben sich ineinander, ohne sich jemals gesehen zu haben. Das klang nach einer Geschichte ganz nach meinem Geschmack; etwas das sich abhebt und mit bestimmten Stigmata aufräumt. Schon nach ein paar Seiten wurde mir allerdings klar, dass ich meine Erwartungen sehr weit zurückschrauben muss. Über die komplett unrealistischen Zustände auf der Rehastation konnte ich ja gerade noch so hinwegsehen, aber das Nebencharaktere eingeführt werden, die dann im Laufe der Geschichte einfach sang- und klanglos im Nichts verschwinden hat mich genauso gestört wie die Tatsache, dass die Autorin bestimmte Details auslässt. Der Schreibstil ist bestenfalls oberflächlich, es scheint nicht so, als hätte die Autorin besonders viel Recherchearbeit betrieben. Auch mit den beiden Protagonisten Alice und Alfie bin ich nicht warm geworden, ihre Stimmungen springen so oft hin und her und sind so übertrieben dargestellt, dass ich die beiden ab irgendeinem Zeitpunkt nicht mehr ernst nehmen konnte. Die Handlung des Buches findet hauptsächlich auf der Rehastation statt, wobei Emily Houghton den Fokus auf die Gespräche zwischen Alice und Alfie legt, die aber kaum Tiefe haben. Auch setzt sich die Autorin zu wenig mit dem Thema Selbstakzeptanz auseinander; eher mit dem Gegenteil, was ich schade finde, weil es einen Eindruck vermittelt, der einfach schon zu oft besprochen wurde. Zum Ende hin bekommt die Story dann zwar etwas mehr Dynamik, aber das lief bei mir ins Leere, da ich zu diesem Zeitpunkt bereits gedanklich mit dem Buch abgeschlossen hatte.
Es passiert selten, dass ich nur einen Stern vergebe, weil alleine schon die Tatsache, dass jemand überhaupt Bücher schreibt, Bewunderung und Dankbarkeit verdient, aber ich kann über dieses Buch absolut nichts Gutes sagen, so schade das auch ist.
Profile Image for Pikolina.
756 reviews216 followers
November 3, 2022
Esperaba una historia más romántica, algo más parecido a lo que estoy acostumbrada a leer, pero no ha sido así ... no obstante, me ha gustado.
Se lee super bien, es sencillita, y engancha, tanto, que no me ha durado ni 24h.
Es una historia con sus dramas, una historia de superación, de amistad y de amor.
September 25, 2022
В „Преди да те видя“ се запознаваме с Алис и Алфи – двама души, които се намират в отделение за възстановяване след тежки физически травми. Постепенно, без дори да се виждат един друг, те започват да разговарят и да изграждат едно красиво приятелство и връзка помежду си.
Емили Хоутън ни представя двама различни главни герои. Докато Алис е сдържана и пази мислите и чувствата си за себе си, Алфи е общителен и успешно влиза под кожата на хората. Хареса ми, че любовта в историята се поражда от това какви са те като характери и личности, а не от това как изглеждат. Връзката, която изграждат е специална и успя да стопли сърцето ми.
Макар, че е роман, по-голямата част от сюжета се развива в болница, което позволява на авторката да изгради наистина реалистично психологическите аспекти от тежка физическа травма. Друго нещо, което ми направи силно позитивно впечатление беше колко добре са очертани героите и на заден план - всички пациенти в отделението, сестрите, семействата и приятелите им.
Давам на книгата 4 * и определено препоръчвам на читатели, които харесват добре развити главни герои, които си помагат в трудни времена и успяват да изградят онази дълбока връзка, която като хора всички копнеем да имаме.
Profile Image for Bridget.
2,787 reviews98 followers
February 7, 2021
Emily Houghton has become one of my new favourite authors! I'm so pleased that this book caught my eye and I was delighted to be given the opportunity to read an advanced review copy.

This début is a truly beautiful story. Set mostly in St. Francis Hospital's Moira Gladstone rehabilitation ward, Alfie Mack is recuperating from a life-changing injury. Friendly with the other patients on the ward such as the elderly Mr Peterson, and generally upbeat, Nurse Angles believes he is the ideal person to coax his newly arrived neighbour in the next bed back to life. Alice Gunnersley hasn’t spoken since her admittance to hospital following injuries sustained during an office fire. Alice's curtains surrounding her bed are permanently kept closed at her insistence. Not given to extended bouts of silence, Alfie Mack, banterer extraordinaire, and a man responsible for most of the camaraderie on the ward, gradually starts conversing with Alice.

As soon as I began reading Before I Saw You I knew it was going to pull at my heartstrings. Told by Alfie and Alice in alternating chapters there wasn't anything in this novel to dislike. As the story progressed I came to care about them tremendously; both individually and as a couple. Whilst they were both lovely people, there was something extra special about Alfie and I can’t imagine anyone disliking him, with his spark, brand of humour and general sunny demeanour. I loved how they were polar opposites and the way he attempted to slowly bring Alice out of her torment whilst she fought to resist.

Emily Houghton's writing was truly magical in the way she portrayed all manner of moods and emotional states. I became rather smitten with all of the characters and wanted nothing but better things for them. The secondary characters brought so much to the storyline, too, particularly Mr Peterson and Sarah (Alice's best friend from Australia). Their input and thoughts into Alice's and Alfie's rehabilitation were marvellous. Doesn't everyone need a friend like Sarah in their life?

Before I Saw You is rich in emotion, a truly outstanding d��but, and I cannot wait to see what Emily Houghton writes next. A fabulously untypical romance that is not all hearts and flowers.

A special thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers/Bantam Press, Emily Houghton, NetGalley and Pigeonhole for a complimentary copy of this novel at my request. This review is my unbiased opinion.
Profile Image for DaniiWho.
365 reviews37 followers
December 1, 2021
Was für eine Enttäuschung.
1. unglaublich trocken zu lesen
2. Protas die sehr steif und eindimensional sind
3. keine Chemie
4. keine Entwicklung
Und überhaupt sehr fragwürdig wie es auf der Station im KH zu geht.
Man sollte meinen, dass Alice nach ihrem Unfall viel mehr Therapien bekommen würde, aber nope. Zu 99% liegt die Frau im Bett. Visite vom Arzt?! Ach wozu.
Nach so nem traumatischen Erlebnis ist es doch besser sie in ein Zimmer zu stecken und gut ist.
Alfie und seine aufgesetzte Fröhlichkeit gingen mir auch auf die Nerven.
Aus mehr bestand seine Persönlichkeit aber auch nicht.
Wo und wann die beiden sich verliebt haben weiß ich nicht.
Das Alice ihre OP als Heilmittel dargestellt hat fand ich auch nicht okay und dass da keine Psychologen da waren um mir ihr zu arbeiten…. Find ich unrealistisch.
Kann doch nicht gesund sein, dass die sich hinter dem Vorhang versteckt und da nie jemand da ist.
Auch ihre Wunden sind gefühlt zu selten versorgt worden.
Ich bin sicher kein Profi, aber sollte ein Arzt nicht öfters mal vorbei kommen und sich die Wunden anschauen?
Und die Wunden könnten nässen.
Sich entzünden.
Aber hauptsache sie liegt allein in dem Bett und darf sich verstecken. Dass sie Zeit und Raum braucht sich an ihr neues Ich zu gewöhnen ist logisch. Aber sie hatte keine Hilfe. Und vor allem ihre Einstellung zu der OP haben doch gezeigt, dass sie Hilfe braucht.
Jaaaa, es regt mich auf!!!

Und dann war‘s plötzlich Liebe und ich frag mich wieso.
Wo kamen diese Gefühle her und vor allem WARUM????

Selbst die ernsteren Gespräche kamen bei mir nicht an.
Ich hatte zu niemanden Bezug und sie fühlten sich nicht echt an. Ich wollte einfach mehr…..
Profile Image for Fay Flude.
641 reviews24 followers
January 10, 2021
For me this is just the kind of book that is easily worth 5 stars, and more, because of the sensitive and compassionate way a complex and traumatic subject matter is handled. And yet I am not a fan of real life survivor tales or harrowing memoirs. This is a work of fiction and it is the the minutely observed and acutely perceptive emotions and interplay between a cast of amazing characters that heralds the triumphant arrival of debut novel Before I Saw You.
Mainly set in the Moira Gladstone rehabilitation ward at St Francis Hopspital, this book is funny, heart wrenching and uplifting.
It charts the recovery, both physically and mentally, of two patients side by side in their beds, each unseen by the other. Alfie Mack is a gloriously cheeky, upbeat and charming young man and Alice is the opposite, a lonely young woman, who has isolated herself from human contact as a result of a troubled childhood and a grim determination to make her ambition and career a substitute for friends and love.
Through dialogue, physio, family visits and lots of puzzle solving we are treated to an epic journey of self discovery and healing. The ward is populated with some colourful characters, not least of all Mother Angel or Nurse Angles to give her her proper title, and Mr P, a 92 year old and very wise man who pretends to be grumpy and fed up of Alfie's relentless good cheer, but in reality loves the young man like a grandson. There is also Sharon and Jackie and Ruby, Jane and Robert Mack, Mr Warring and Sarah as well as Darren, to meet in this family of patients, staff and visitors.
There is sadness and loss which will bring tears to the eyes of many a reader but mostly this is all about Hope. The very thing every single one of us needs with which to survive, live, adapt and try again. It is funny and beautiful, profound and a very easy to read engaging story. I was mesmerised from the very beginning and fell in love to the extent that I found it very hard to let go at the end.
I am astounded quite frankly at the talent of Emily Houghton to produce this, a debut novel, which has such an emotional depth and accuracy to it, revealing the very personal way in which tragedy affects us in varying degrees to shape the way we cope and carry on.
It is still very early on in a new year, but it will take a lot for subsequent books I pick up to match the quality and beauty of this novel. I will confidently predict this will be a top 5 read of the year for me.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Find out what I am talking about and fall in love with life itself.
Thank you to Emily Houghton, the publisher and Netgalley and Pigeonhole for allowing me to read ahead of publication in exchange for this honest review.
Take care Alfie and Alice, keep on holding hands, and Emily Houghton, I look forward to your next genius novel!
Profile Image for Melissa (Catch Up Mode).
4,572 reviews1,879 followers
May 4, 2021
"Our scars are simply the marks of our stories. They show we've lived a great life, and most of all that we survived it. Don't hide your story away in the shadows."

Sometimes you're just in the mood for a book that is sweet, but also explores deeper emotions.
Both Alice and Alfie are residents on a rehabilitation ward after suffering terrible accidents. Alice survived a fire and doesn't want anyone to see her face. The two become friends and forge bonds on adjacent sides of curtained cubicles. They both struggle with different things--survivor's guilt, fear, shame, and loss (both emotional and physical). Through humor and tenacity the two move forward toward healing.
I loved Alfie throughout this book and Alice kind of grated on me. I can't even begin to imagine what she was experiencing, so maybe I'm judging her reactions a bit harshly. This book is told through their alternating points of view, and so the reader gets insight into their unique perspectives. I liked the ending but wanted a bit more! I want to know the rest of the story! Maybe the author could write a follow up featuring some of the other characters and we can get a few glimpses at Alfie and Alice down the road. (Hint!)

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Vanessa Menezes.
434 reviews112 followers
December 3, 2020
‘Our scars are simply the marks of our stories. They show we've lived our life, and most of all that we have survived it.' - this is one quote which I would love to remember from this book.

Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. So when a new patient is put in the bed beside him, he's eager for someone different to talk to. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now.

Alice has been badly burned and can't bear to look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else see her. She insists on keeping the curtain around her bed firmly closed at all times.

But that doesn't stop Alfie trying to be friends. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice slowly out of her shell, there might even be potential for something more?

I actually liked and enjoyed this book even though it kind of unreal at times.

It was fun to read the interactions between all the characters especially it was lovely to see their friendship and bonding. Nurse Angles a.k.a Mother Angel was amazing but for me, Alfie is the star of this book. His personality was so likable and positive, I feel I might have to learn a few things from him about how to stay positive and happy while going through a tough time. His conversations with Mr Peterson were so enjoyable.

Initially when I read the book, I didn’t like Alice much and I found her grumpy and was annoyed at how she was behaving. But then as I thought more about it, I felt that I was being slightly harsh and that it’s not that easy to go through what she was facing. Being a burn victim and seeing your entire life change is definitely not an easy experience.

The ending was on expected lines but it happened just a bit too fast. I wish there was epilogue to know a bit more and obtain a sense of completion to the story.

Nevertheless, an enjoyable read.

Thank You to NetGalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for this ARC!
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,398 reviews147 followers
January 8, 2021
Before I saw You is the first novel by British author, Emily Houghton. The woman behind the curtain isn’t talking. Alfie Mack has been in rehab on the Moira Gladstone ward of St Francis’s Hospital for some time since his amputation and, in between punishing physio sessions, focuses on entertaining the other patients: “People do say I’m like therapy, but better and free”. But he’s been warned that Alice Gunnersley is so traumatised by her injuries that she has stopped talking weeks ago: he’s to leave her alone. Alfie just can’t imagine not talking…

“Alfie lived for conversation. He thrived off connection. In fact, one of the only things that got him through his days was annoying Mr Peterson or catching up on the gossip with Sharon. Conversations were the fabric of his existence on the ward, and without them Alfie could only imagine what a lonely place it would be.”

Perhaps Sister Martha Angles (aka Mother Angel) gives Alfie that warning because she knows he won’t stick to it for long. And it does take a while, but eventually, he and Alice are batting quips and insults at each other, and sharing some intense chats when insomnia or nightmares dog their nights. If Alfie is a little terrified of rejoining the outside world, Alice is depending on surgery to solve her biggest problem: letting herself be seen by anyone at all.

This is very much a character-driven story, and Houghton is talented at portraying the different stages of grief that ensue after a disfiguring traumatic experience. It’s clear that, as well as being further along his grief journey, well into the acceptance stage, Alfie possibly has a much more positive attitude than Alice. The (very abrupt) ending is fairly predictable, and a feel-good one, but something about these characters doesn’t quite connect.

The vehicle that Houghton uses to facilitate the interaction between the two protagonists, a lengthy stint in a rehab ward, also lacks some credibility: the story is clearly set post-2016, but some aspects of the hospital care feel more 1980s, and this might distract a reader with experience in the health system. A sweet story if you don’t look too closely at the details.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Random House UK Transworld.
Profile Image for Karen ⊰✿.
1,394 reviews
February 15, 2021
In a rehab ward of a London hospital, Alfie Mack is learning to walk again after losing his leg in a car accident. He is completely full of life, mischief and fun and makes the ward more like home for everyone.
Alice moves in next to his bed on the ward, but keeps her curtains constantly closed and doesn't want to speak to anyone.
This is a challenge Alfie can't ignore!

And so this delightful book winds it way through the different characters on the ward, but mainly Alice and Alfie, as they recuperate their bodies, but also learn to face their mental trauma.

There are many laugh out loud moments, quite a few tears, and apart from slowing down a bit in the last third, I thought it was well paced and kept me engaged.

Recommended for those who like a character driven novel with a bit of humour and romance :)

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Farah Firdaus.
599 reviews210 followers
December 24, 2021
Without a doubt the worst book I have read this year.

Underwhelmed is probably the best word to describe how I was feeling towards this novel. I can’t believe this book has 4+ stars rating on Goodreads given that it was aggressively boring and unbelievably average. I was very disappointed because the synopsis was really interesting: After being in terrible accidents, Alfie and Alice share the same hospital ward as long-term residents of St Francis Hospital. Although they don’t get off to the best start, something more than friendship begins to slowly blossom between them despite the fact that they have never seen each other face to face. It was something, right? But mix together a bland romance, overused exclamation marks (seriously this is so annoying), characters who sound like whiny teenagers and unrealistic setting, you will get this book.

Basically, I’m not impressed. But if you are curious about the book and are able to suspend any belief and just be entertained, go ahead and read it.
Profile Image for Carly Findlay.
Author 5 books452 followers
March 29, 2021
CW: ableism, trauma

Before I Saw You popped up on my Kindle recommendations - and honestly, I should have heeded the alarm bells of the snippets of previous reviews.

“A charming page-turner of a romance with characters I cared about enormously. I inhaled it! ― Laura Jane Williams, bestselling author of Our Stop

The perfect read for fans of Me Before You ― Candis

An emotional, character-led story ― My Weekly

A heartwarming and heartbreaking debut ― Heat”

Ableism is always called charming and heartwarming.

The story is told from two perspectives - Alfie and Alice, two twenty something career minded people who come together through life changing events.

They are next to each other in hospital - after each having serious accidents that left them disabled.

Alfie is the only survivor of a car accident - that killed his two best mates. One leg is amputated and he’s learning to walk again.

Alice survives a late night office fire, saved by a hero receptionist. She endures burns to her face and body.

Over a course of time - it’s hard to tell how long, as the book is quite slow moving - they fall in love through conversation and hand holding, though they never see each other.

There is so much grief and shame in the book. So much.

Alfie is less shameful about his disability than Alice, but he’s still concerned about discrimination at his workplace - he’s a PE teacher. But Alice cannot shake the shame and self hatred - afraid to look in the mirror and for others to see her.

The language used perpetuated the tragedy narrative.

Words like “broken” and “freak” were constantly used by Alice, though the medical staff and peripheral characters constantly validated what a tragedy Alice’s face was after the accident, too. From the first chapter: “‘Lucky? You think she’s going to feel lucky when she looks in the mirror for the first time? She’s been badly burnt, the poor girl.”

A few examples from Alice’s perspective near the end:

“He didn’t even have the decency to look her in the eye. Why was he talking to the goddam floor? Could he not stand to see the monster he’d failed to fix? ‘I’m so sorry. I’ll come back tomorrow to check on the wounds. In the meantime, is there anyone you’d like us to call?’ She shook her head. How could she tell them it hadn’t worked? How could she admit it had been a huge mistake? It had failed. Nothing had changed. She was still broken, and she needed to get used to the fact that now she always would be.”

“How would anyone be able to love someone so broken?”

“The morning after she’d got home from hospital, Alice had taken down every single mirror she owned. Even the thought of walking past one and catching her reflection worried her. Now she was about to see her face reflected back to her on the screen.

The scarring has gone down a little and it’s less red in places, but … I’m still a freak.’

There was so much more.

Both Alfie and Alice’s friends seem to accept their respective disabilities more than Alfie and Alice themselves - offering encouraging words.

I have tried to find out if Emily Houghton, the author, has burns, a facial difference or amputation, but cannot find anything. I have googled and tweeted Emily Houghton. I hope it’s #OwnVoices. (In the acknowledgments, Emily writes “Alfie and Alice are a reflection of so many parts of me” - so perhaps she has firsthand lived experience of disability and facial difference, but there’s nothing public to suggest she does.)

And if it’s not own voices, what inspired Emily to write this book? Has she got a disabled relative or friend? Does she work in the disability sector - like hospital rehab? Or can she easily disguise her burn scars or amputation (if it is written from lived experience)? (The acknowledgements mention doctors, but no reference to actually disabled people who were consulted. Emily writes: “Dr Nagla Elfaki, Dr Tom Stonier and Dr Naomi Cairns, who were, despite saving lives and working unbelievably long hours, always on hand for medical fact-checking and advice! I do have to say that creative licence was still taken with the book, but without their knowledge and support the authenticity and understanding of the characters’ journeys would not have been the same.”) This is important in determining the author’s experience of disability and how she wants readers to feel about disability.

There are some good lines about self acceptance and accessibility infrequently through the book, but it’s very much portraying disability as tragedy, grief of becoming disabled, the fear of seeing yourself and others) now you have a facial difference. I liked the line about how even if you’re curious (about someone’s disability), it’s not ok if it causes hurt.

As someone born with a facial difference, the descriptions around the fear the main character Alice has about looking at herself and also letting others see her only increases the stigma around people like me.

And the idea that you don’t need to see someone to fall in love is true (I did years of internet dating, and loved people I’d only talked to online/phone) but also suggests disabled people are rarely loved for our appearances, that any “deformities” must be looked past. Above all, the idea that disabled people’s worth is measured by the love from someone else rather than self love is perpetuated frequently throughout the book.

I also recognise that the experience of acquired disability is different to mine. There is grief, and it’s valid. But I worry these tropes (like with Me Before You) suggest disabled is worse than death, and it might be a reader’s only experience with disability.

There was a little of the difficulty of navigating stares and pointing from children and adults; but no real resolution in how to handle these situations. I would love to have seen Alice especially find some role models in the facial difference community, perhaps some reference to Changing Faces - the British charity that does so much good work in educating people about facial differences. But there was no mention of either.

Alfie was fairly upbeat about his acquired disability - I like to think this rubbed off on Alice at the end of the book.

While there was a happy ending, it wasn’t enough to redeem itself from the shame and tragic narrative throughout.

There were good intentions with Before I Saw You. But there was so much ableism which left me frustrated. There were so many missed opportunities in this book - particularly to show disability isn’t a tragedy. Mostly, it left me sad that seemingly another book takes up space in writing Disability as a tragedy.

A longer review is here http://carlyfindlay.com.au/2021/03/29...
Profile Image for Deanne Patterson.
1,829 reviews87 followers
April 7, 2023
Before her accident Alice Gunnersley was very independent, wouldn't give you the time of day and simply didn't care how you were doing.
Alfie Mack was already a patient at the hospital when Alice arrives. Now Alfie is a nice guy, he talks to everyone and wants to make everyone feel comfortable and like they have a friend.
Depressed when Alice arrives, she won't talk to anyone including Alfie, but this doesn't stop him from talking to her. If anything, it makes him more determined to become her friend.
Though they can't see each other being on the same ward they get to talking and have some poignant conversations. He makes her laugh; she is someone he can confide in, as they draw closer with their feelings a romantic as it can possibly be in a hospital blossoms. Will it continue outside of the hospital when their bodies are healed though? I thought it had a rather abrupt ending and to be truthful the book was slow.

Pub Date 04 May 2021
I was given a complimentary copy of this book.
All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Ali Kennedy.
636 reviews32 followers
January 10, 2021
Deciding on a star rating for this was difficult as I found the author's writing to be absolutely beautiful, and of a much higher standard than many debut novels. She was able to convey deep emotions and explore the human experience of trauma, recovery, love, and mental health in a very astute, and almost poetic, way.

That said, I enjoyed the plot but thought that more could have been made of it. Alfie and Alice are in adjoining beds in a rehabilitation ward at a hospital. Alfie lost a leg in a car accident and Alice was badly burned in a fire. As a result, Alice hides behind the curtain around her bed and the two begin to get to know each other for who they are rather than what they look like. It isn't a spoiler to assume that they eventually leave the hospital and this is the bit I'd have liked sooner. By about 70% of the book I was getting a bit fed up with the constant soul searching or emotional complexities and analysis. Don't get me wrong, they are so excellently done, I just wanted a bit more in terms of events/action.

The characterisation is done very well, so much so that Alice frustrated me no end and I wanted to give her a good shake more than once! There are a whole host of supporting characters who really add colour and warmth to the book.

Ultimately, I think this is 3.5 stars for me as I wasn't as fulfilled by the plot as I wanted to be. However, this is a very promising debut author and I'd definitely enjoy more of her writing (so I'm giving 4 stars so it doesn't show as negatively in the overall star average 😀)

Thanks to the author and The Pigeonhole for access to this beautifully written book.
Profile Image for Emma.
221 reviews81 followers
February 13, 2021
Set for release on the 4th of February 2021
I want to thank NetGalley & Random House UK, Transworld Publisher’s for eARC.

3.8 stars(rounded to 4)

Two patients at a hospital Alice & Alfie.. strangers who are next to each other day in and out.

If you take the book as a cute romcom you’re dead wrong but also dead right. This book is funny and a fresh take on the whole “hospital romance” genre thats plagued the YA (it’s not YA) scene for a while. (Hey I ain’t complaining their so, so good!)

Emily Houghton’s Before I Saw You is a book about healing and needing others surrounding you to do some, that it’s okay to let someone in when you’re at your lowest and that also the people you love the most can and will disappoint you.

Alfie Mack is in St Francis Hospital for Rehabilitation after a horrid car crash that left him with an amputated leg while Alice Gunnersley is in after being badly injured in an office fire.
Both protagonists struggle with the outcomes of their situations with differing approaches Alice; is not talking and does not want company.
While Alfie; is making as many friends as possible and WILL NOT shut up.

This is a pretty slow read I will admit but I’m not mad at it, their contrast in personalities is so interesting and they being out the emotion and physical pain in each other.
The supporting characters are a stand out with Sharon and Mr. Peterson as well as the nurse staff they become a family and it’s really lovely to see that play out.

Let’s talk Pros & Cons shall we?

Okay as always first up the CONS:
- the pacing was horrible (bloody hell)
- The book was just sitting and talking, lots of inner monologue which I’m not saying isn’t completely bad but you do get a little sick of it, I won’t lie.
- the romance felt forced, one second their having a couple of deep convos and then the next they’re in love. (Um)
- Slooooow burn, slower than your favourite fan fic.
- (Spoiler) they didn’t kiss I’m not mad, *reasoning in my pros* but this story probably needed the KISS.

The PROS (spoilers & unpopular opinionssss):
- I LIKE THAT THEY DON’T KISS. Felt so Jane Austen to me and I won’t lie I love the whole “you don’t need to kiss to prove your feelings” trope.
- The characters back stories, you feel like you know them because you do really get to know them. They riches backstories I’ve seen in romance novel for a while actually. (Not shade)
- It was really funny, laughed out loud a few time and got my giggle on.
- Sarah, man I liked Sarah a lot. (We all need a friend like her)
- If you want a little tear up sesh you will probably have one in here somewhere at just how real the parts where they’re both trying to recover is okay so be prepared they’re so good though.

Overall thoughts:

I appreciate this story for what it is, it’s a light heart read about a meaningful topic and I’m okay with that.
The writing was pretty good and if I see another book by the author on NetGalley I’d request it or I’d buy it in store.

Recommend it for a sunny day.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Diamond.
132 reviews44 followers
October 8, 2020
First of all, many thanks to the publishers and the author for providing an eARC of the book!

I am very glad that I read this book, and do recommend to read it to anyone) The main characters were developed very well, with different points of view. Some parts were sad, some were heartbreaking and others were warming))
Happy Reading Everyone and Stay Safe!
Profile Image for Katy.
135 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2021
Alfie and Alice are in adjacent hospital beds of a rehab ward following traumatic and life changing accidents. Alice is unable to bear the idea of anyone seeing her due to facial disfiguration, so remains behind her curtains for most of the book.

Alice is a fiercely independent "I don't need anyone" type, Alfie is a relentless people pleaser. Over time, Alice drops her ice queen facade enough for she and Alfie to have many Deep And Meaningful Conversations, in which we learn of the events in their childhoods which formed these personalities. Despite letting Alfie in on her deepest thoughts and memories, Alice still can't let him see her. Then Alfie is discharged. Will the bond the pair formed be stronger than Alice's lifelong determination to push everyone away and her determination to live her post-accident life without anyone laying eyes on her?

I think that what I learned from reading this as part of the Pigeonhole reading group is that there is a genre of books that are just not for me, and unfortunately this is one of them. Fellow Pigeons delighted in this story, loved the characters and the events and clearly became very invested in what happened to them. I found the characters unbelievable, clichéd and at times unlikeable, the events predictable at times, inconsistent, implausible or incredibly fortunately coincidental at others. I found that fellow Pigeons frequently commented "but it's fiction!" when inconsistencies and unlikely coincidences occured. For me, fiction does not equal fantasy, and for a story set in the real world, the need to suspend disbelief over these unbelievable or unfeasible aspects of the narrative prevented me from being able to become invested at all in the characters or story and ultimately in my finding it sickly sweet, drawn out and not particularly enjoyable.

Fortunately we are not all the same.

Ultimately this is a poor read for me, as reflected in the star rating, but for those who are not afflicted with the need for real word fiction to be believable, or with more ability than me to endlessly suspend disbelief, this is a sweet and gentle tale which may well suit those needing an escape from the difficult reality we currently inhabit.
Profile Image for Venka Gospodinova.
41 reviews2 followers
September 21, 2022
Един различен сюжет, като за романтична книга. Леко четиво, което ни показва една различна гледна точка и ни учи да търсим доброто и красивото и в нас и в околните.
Profile Image for Sofie |.
243 reviews151 followers
March 18, 2021
One of the hardest lessons he’d had to learn was that time doesn’t stop for anyone. If you don’t go with it, there’s a risk people will move on without you too. But to take that first step feels so much like betrayal it roots you to the spot.

Before I Saw You is a dual perspective contemporary romance about two people, Alfie and Alice, who occupy beds beside each other in a rehabilitation ward in the hospital. Over the course of the novel, through ridiculous jokes and deep chats, the two end up forming a bond. The catch: Alice was badly injured at work, and she hides herself behind the curtain that surrounds her bed.

Contrary to the blurb of Before I Saw You, I would not call this book a romance. Yes, it had romance, but the book went deeper are darker than your average adult contemporary novel. Most surprisingly, to me, were the deep themes of mental illness, self-acceptance, and childhood trauma.

Usually, when an author throws in some tragic past for their characters, or some half-assed attempt at dealing with deep themes in the context of a light, fluffy romance, I roll my eyes. It rarely works. It's nearly always a surface-level addition to add "depth" to otherwise generic characters.

That was NOT the case here. This was a story about 2 people who go through some traumatic things, who struggle to accept their lives as they are now, who are deeply wounded because of their pasts, and who seek comfort in each other during their recovery. It just happens to have a romance in there, too.

I adored the way Houghton handled

And my heart broke for Alice. I could feel her insecurities, the hollowness she feels

Of course, there were things that disappointed me about the story, mainly

So really, this isn't a romance. If you read this with the expectation that it is, you might be disappointed. And don't get me wrong, I still fell in love with Alice and Alfie's relationship. But what really stood out to me was the care Houghton put into the sensitive themes of the novel.

Definitely worth a read, and keep some tissues nearby!
Profile Image for Siqahiqa.
440 reviews74 followers
October 26, 2021
Before I Saw You follows a story of Alfie and Alice, which staying in the Moira Gladstone ward at St Francis hospital for rehabilitation. Alfie had a leg amputated after a car crash while Alice was severely burned in an office fire. They are neighbours in the ward and divided by hospital curtain as Alice don't want to see people.

"Two strangers talking all day every day but never actually meeting face-to-face? Could you even call that a friendship?".

I loved the scene when they started to have a conversation and the crossword clue. It makes me want to do crossword too! All the supporting characters are amazing and I loved them especially Sarah (Alice's best friend from Australia). Everyone need a supportive friend like Sarah!

"Our scars are simply the marks of our stories. They show we've lived our life, and most of all that we have survived it. Don't hide your story away in the shadows."

For me, the story of loving a stranger is only the side story. The main story is how the characters deal with their new situation and stress about taking their first steps to the world. It must be not the same like before the accident. I strongly say that the author conveys this part very well.

"How would anyone be able to love someone so broken?"

It's possible. Love will come at the right time. If someone truly love you, they will accept you no matter what condition you're in.

✨ Life lessons ✨
1. Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives lead us straight to the best things that will ever happen to us.
2. Value every good thing in life and recognize that there is nothing too small for you to be grateful for.
3. Do not push someone that sincerely want to help you and never take someone that care for you for granted.

✨ Quote ✨
"At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what other people think of you if you're cut up and bleeding on the inside."

Before I Saw You is a heartwarming story about hope, healing, and friendship. It is a pleasure read for me. For me, the author's writing is simply beautiful 💛

Many thanks to @putrifariza and @timesreads for the review copy in exchange of an honest review ✨

My rating: 4.3/5

Profile Image for Madia M.
424 reviews12 followers
February 11, 2021
I was about 2 pages in when I decided I’m going to love this book and for the most part, I did.

This is a story about Alice and Alfie as they recover in adjoining beds post their accidents. I really enjoyed the writing style, it was clean but packed a punch when needed. For me, the pacing of this book was off. I thought the end almost felt rushed but there was a portion in the middle that could have been shortened.

I loved the cast of characters but weirdly felt upset at the thought that Mr P along with the rest of the ward was being neglected by Alfie. It’s a testament to the author that she made me care so much in such little time. I also think they provided great comic relief at the beginning of the book and should have been utilised more in the middle to break up all the heavy conversations.

Some might be disappointed in the romance but I loved the connection Alfie and Alice were building and that’s what I was reading for along with the general dynamic of the ward and it’s inhabitants. It’s why I missed everyone so much when they started to fade into the background.

Just a random thought that I found it strange Nurse A would use the pet name ‘baby’. In my head chicken or duck just seems far more likely. Maybe that’s a northern thing 🤷🏽‍♀️.

Overall a great debut and I’ll definitely looking out for more.
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