Little Face
Sophie Hannah
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Buy *Little Face* by Sophie Hannah online

Little Face
Sophie Hannah
320 pages
September 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Sophie Hannahís Little Face is a suspenseful novel about every mother's worst nightmare: the loss of a child.

Alice Fancourt has just given birth to her first child, a beautiful, healthy daughter named Florence. She is very much in love with her husband, David, although at times he seems cool and distant. They live on a beautiful estate called the Elms in the English countryside with David's mother, Vivienne, and Felix, David's young son from his first marriage. Alice hadnít wanted to move into the Elms and live with her mother-in-law, but David convinced her it would be best for Florence. Alice didn't come from wealthy family like David's, and she doesn't entire feel at home in her new luxurious surroundings. David's father is not part of his life, and he was raised entirely by Vivienne.

As the novel begins, Alice is leaving her baby for the first time since her birth two weeks earlier. Although she dreads leaving her newborn for the first time, Vivienne has persuaded her to go for a drive and take a tour of Vivienne's health club. Even though Alice has not completely recovered from Florence's birth, a difficult caesarian section, she agrees to go. Vivienne is used to controlling Alice just as she controls her son, David, accustomed to getting what she wants; Alice is afraid of saying no to Vivienne.

When she returns home a few hours later, the baby she finds in her crib is not Florence. David thinks Alice has lost her mind and insists the baby is indeed their daughter. Furious, he thinks Alice is suffering from postpartum depression - she suffered a bout of depression a few years earlier, brought on by the sudden death of her beloved parents in a car accident.

What has really happened? Is Alice crazy, or has her husband switched babies for some unknown and sinister purpose?

David becomes enraged when Alice insists this new baby is a stranger to her. She is further convinced that this new baby isn't Florence when she overhears David talking to the baby and calling her "Little Face." Their nickname for Florence was "Mrs. Tigglewinkle."

Vivienne is in Florida on vacation with Felix, and Alice telephones her to tell her she must return home. Alice then calls the police, and her story interweaves with that of Simon Waterhouse, a detective constable who is called to the scene. Although he is able to crack cases other detectives in his department are unable to solve, Simonís volatile temper has prevented him from being promoted. His superior, a woman named Charlie Zailer, is his opposite. Rather than letting her emotions cloud her judgment, Charlie uses logic and reason to solve cases.

Charlie is convinced that Alice is delusional, but Simon is thinks thereís more to the case, especially when he finds out that David's first wife, Laura, was murdered. Although another man confessed to killing Laura and was jailed for the crime, Simon wants to investigate the case further. To complicate matters, the more he sees of Alice, the more he is attracted to her.

Reminiscent of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, Little Face is an ambitious work, part psychological thriller part police procedural/mystery. At times I wasn't sure what direction I was being taken - should I believe Alice? And what possible motivation would David have for swapping babies? But overall, Little Face is a satisfying read, an excellent example of a modern gothic novel.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Heather Darcy, 2009

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