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Sophie Hannah – Little Face

Sophie Hannah - Little Face (cover)Sophie Hannah is best known to me as a poet, but she is also a fine writer of psychological thrillers, if Little Face is anything to go by.

Alice leaves her two-week-old baby daughter, Florence, with her husband David while she goes to the health club her strong-willed mother-in-law has made her join. She misses her child terribly and rushes home – but when she gets back, the baby in the cot is not Florence. The police are called, but no one will believe that the baby is not her daughter. However, when both Alice and the baby disappear a week later, the police are back and looking again at the case, including the murder of David’s first wife years before. Is Alice suffering from post-natal depression? Has her child been taken? And where have she and the baby gone?

Alice’s confrontations with her spineless, cruel, bullying husband are what stand out the most for me, horrifying, claustrophobic and believable. The writing is precise and exquisite and the atmosphere of dread and suspicion is evoked perfectly.

The ending was a little disappointing, after such a brilliantly executed build-up, but this is such thoroughly satisfying psychological thriller that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Rating: A-
Major spoilers after the break, as I want to talk about the ending

I think my problem with how the book ended was that it relied on Alice being unreliable as a narrator in only one aspect of the story. She knew what was going on because she had planned it herself, and even with the explanation that she truly believed Little Face wasn’t her baby herself while it was happening, I still felt a bit cheated that I hadn’t been given an important bit of information which Alice knew. Don’t get me wrong, unreliable narrators are great provided that the story works, but the “kidnapping” or not of the baby was the pivotal plot point, which meant it felt unfair to make this the only thing about which Alice lied. It made me like the book a lot less at the end. It was a slightly disappointing end to what was otherwise a gripping, involving read.

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3 comments on “Sophie Hannah – Little Face

  1. I agree wholeheartedly about the ending. I read this novel too – in fact, I even cancelled an evening out to finish it – and I was pretty upset about the unrealiable first person narration after the showdown at the gymn with the mother-in-law. I think Hannah is an excellent writer, but I found I couldn’t finish her next novel, partly because the first person narrator was all over the place once again, but also because police officers Charlie and Simon appear in the next novel in exactly the same situation as in the first.

    • Hi lawrenceez,

      I think I was even more disappointed because I’d found the scenes between Alice and David so brutal, claustrophobic and convincing. I’d started to invest in Alice and want her to get away – then it turns out she’s responsible for it all after all. I know Simon feels that he has been betrayed by her and can possibly accept that Hannah wanted the reader to fell the same betrayal that Simon does, but I think it was a risky strategy that she didn’t quite pull off.

      I would be interested in reading the next novel – but less so if she doesn’t move forward the Charlie/Simon situation in some way.

  2. Agree with you again on the Alice and David relationship. This comes across as menacing at first and I get the impression Alice is in real danger from her husband. Yet, at the end of the story, the husband meekly accepts the situation. It just doesn’t add up somehow.

    Are you also a writer? Currently, I’m working on several psychological thrillers. Have sent the rewrite of my first novel to an agent who’s looking at it again. I recently completed my second and have laid it aside for a few weeks to get a more objective picture. Now, I’ve begun my third.

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