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 am delighted to be sharing my review today of The First Time I Saw You, by the author of one of my Top Ten Books of 2018, Emma Cooper. My thanks to Headline for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
I am probably not alone when I say that I always approach follow up books to ones I have loved with some trepidation. When you have loved a book as much as I loved Emma’s debut, The Songs of Us, you want the next one to be just as good, but there is always the fear that it will not live up to the heights the last one achieved. I fell so in love with the story of Melody and her family and the book had such a huge impact on me, I really could not see how The First Time I Saw You was going to match it.
Well, Emma is a clever thing because the way she did it was to make this one feel completely different, but in a way that was still compelling and affecting. At least, that is how it felt to me. I found The Songs of Us extremely funny, whilst still being heart-breaking and plumbing real emotional depth. The First Time I Saw You is a horse of a different colour, with less of a comedy element but the same complex familial relationships, the same emotional rollercoaster and the same examination of personal relationships between two flawed people, put under strain.
It took me no time at all to fall in love with Samuel (it may have has something to do with him being Irish, I may just have a little bit of a thing for Irish men). It took me a little longer to warm to Sophie. In fact, the situation was pretty much a reversal of the way I felt about the male and female characters in the last book, but this was very important for the story development. One of the most riveting parts of the plot for me was the development and softening of Sophie, the way she changes throughout the book and how she, and we, uncover the reasons she is the way she is, how her history has shaped her and how the events in the story shape her going forwards. Damaged characters, flawed characters, complicated characters – these are the things that gives books richness and depth and make them extraordinary.
Samuel’s plot arc, for me, was both devastating and uplifting. Because I fell in love with him from the first chapter and was totally on his side, what Emma did to him almost broke me, and seeing him go through his ordeal and claw his way back to where he wanted to be was excruciating. I lived every trial, every setback, every disappointment as if he were a real person I cared for deeply. I was willing him on, wanting him to get his happy ending, mentally begging Emma to help him. It is a rare gift for an author to be able to make characters come so alive and matter so much to readers in this way, and Emma totally has this. It is the thing I love most about her writing, what embeds it in my heart.
This book left me deeply affected, just as the last one did, but in a very different way. Despite the fact that this book turns out very differently (I am desperately trying to get my point across without spoiling either book for people who have not read them yet), in some ways it was a more difficult and melancholy read for me. That may not make any sense to people who have read them both, but it is how I felt. Some people may be disappointed that this book perhaps wasn’t as lighthearted as the previous novel. I say it shows bravery, diversity and a complexity of ability that makes Emma a talented author, who will continue to surprise and push her readers and I, for one, cannot wait to see what she does next.
The First Time I Saw You is challenging, heart-breaking and uplifting and will not disappoint anyone who recognises talent and enjoyed Emma’s previous book. New readers should grab both and indulge themselves in some excellent writing tout suite.
The First Time I Saw You is out now on Kindle and available for pre-order in audiobook and paperback and you can get a copy here.
About the Author
Emma is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of 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 her 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.
The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma’s love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story. Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same.
She has three loves in life: reading, writing and her family…oh, and music, cheese, pizza, films – Maths is not one of her talents.
Connect with Emma:
Facebook: Emma Cooper Author
Twitter: @ItsEmma Cooper