Thursday, 17 May 2018

Book Review: WHEN I FIND YOU by Emma Curtis

Author: Emma Curtis
Publisher: Random House UK
Read: May 2018
Expected publication: 9 August 2018

Book Description:

What do you do when someone takes advantage of your greatest weakness?

When Laura wakes up after her office Christmas party and sees a man’s shirt on the floor, she is horrified. But this is no ordinary one-night-stand regret. Laura suffers from severe face-blindness, a condition that means she is completely unable to identify and remember faces. So the man she spent all night dancing with and kissing – the man she thought she’d brought home – was ‘Pink Shirt’.

But the shirt on her floor is blue. And now Laura must go to work every day and face the man who took advantage of her condition. The man she has no way of recognising.

My musings:

With the sheer number of psychological thrillers out there, I always greatly admire an author who can come up with an original premise that hasn’t been done a million times before. Such as giving the main character a medical condition that makes them just a little bit unreliable and casts doubt over the events unfolding. We saw it with the agoraphobic protagonist in A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window, or S.J. Watson’s character Christine in Before I Go toSleep, who had suffered a brain injury and couldn’t form memories. Curtis uses the rare condition prosopagnosia, or face blindness, for her main protagonist Laura, and I admit that when I first started reading I had no idea that this debilitating condition could form the basis for such a riveting story – or where exactly the author was going to lead me. Aren’t those mysteries the best kind?

Laura, a creative ad designer in a successful advertising agency, has managed her condition from her work colleagues, even though she struggles with it on a daily basis. There is nothing wrong with her eyesight, but her brain is unable to interpret facial features, which makes her “face blind”, i.e. unable to tell one face apart from another – even those faces of the people nearest and dearest to her, including her own face in the mirror. She heavily relies on other features, such as hairstyle and colour, mannerisms, clothing etc to be able to tell who people are, but these things are changeable and not always reliable. Social situations are her worst nightmare, such as people approaching her in the street or on the train, where the context is missing and she has no reference points to help her identify them. When Laura finds herself in a situation where someone exploits her vulnerability to his advantage, it struck me how debilitating her condition really is! Imagine there is a perpetrator out there somewhere, but you are unable to recognise him, even if he sits next to you on the train, chats to you in the canteen, or shows up at a dinner party. It came as no surprise to me that Laura became anxious and neurotic, living in constant fear and suspicion.

Apart from the very original and fascinating concept of face blindness, I found Laura to be an enigmatic and interesting character who courageously fought to overcome her limitations. As Laura shares insights into her daily struggles, it was obvious that Curtis had done her research into the condition, which made for fascinating reading and a story that kept me turning the pages. To turn this into a well-written mystery was an added bonus! I also really enjoyed the two separate POVs in the story – whilst the main part is being told in the first person through Laura’s eyes, her accounts are fleshed out by a third-person account from the perspective of Rebecca, one of Laura’s bosses. I was slightly puzzled at first as two why these two very different women were being chosen to tell the story, but it was perfect!

There are a few well-executed twists in the story which took me by surprise, and the final denouement was satisfying and fitting for this original, character driven story. Overall, I really enjoyed a mystery that stood out from the rest with its intriguing concept, and I look forward to reading more from this author in future.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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