Remember The Songs of Us? I suspect those of us who read it will have found it impossible to forget – in fact, I still reach for the tissue box at the very thought of it. But it brings a smile to my face too – as the best emotional reads really should. You’ll find my review of that one here – but today I’m delighted to be sharing my review for Emma Cooper’s latest, The First Time I Saw You. Published in paperback by Headline Review on 9th January, it’s also available as an ebook and audiobook. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour and her continuing support, with apologies that I just couldn’t post my review on my designated date (life, eh?)- and to the publishers for my reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.
Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.
When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be. But fate has other ideas.
Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back. But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways than they ever expected…
I suspect we’ve all known those times when you pick up a book and know, within the first few pages, that you’re holding something rather special in your hands. This book had me smitten from the very beginning, with the chance meeting, on the streets of Washington, of the two endearing main characters, Samuel and Sophie. Their meeting is one of those lovely cinematic moments that the author does so well – but she’s also has that perfect touch with the more intimate moments as the couple grow closer.
But this is a long way from a conventional boy meets girl love story – the couple are wrenched apart, and for most of the book we share the twists and turns of their separate lives. It’s different, it’s brave – and it works quite wonderfully, as they yearn for each other but also focus on the challenges life throws at them.
The characters are just wonderful. Sophie’s perhaps the more difficult to warm to at first, but as we get to know her better we see her softer and more vulnerable side, but also the steel at her core as she faces up to her challenges. Samuel immediately won my heart – who wouldn’t love a man who belts out a tune and dances in his kitchen – and the way his personal story unspooled totally broke it.
The supporting characters are superb too. Samuel’s Irish family, particularly his father, are so beautifully drawn, with that lovely balance between mortal embarrassment and an overflowing love – I really thought no-one could portray that family relationship as well as Anna McPartlin (you might be reminded of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes too), but I was wrong. And I really loved Sophie’s relationship with her neighbour too, with its gradual thaw, the slow unfolding of his story, and those heart-in-mouth moments. And then there’s Michael – but I’ll let you discover him for yourself.
This is a book that makes you ache inside – the writing is just glorious, moving from gentle humour to heart-stopping drama with absolute ease, and a consummate touch with every emotional moment. The dialogue is never anything but absolutely real – and the shared thoughts and feelings quite perfectly captured.
I don’t want to share too much of the story – I want everyone to experience it and live it in the same way I did. But this book was absolutely unforgettable, and just stunning – without question, one of my books of the year.
About the author
Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire with her partner and four children. She spends her spare time writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day. Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.