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The Man Without a Face by Isabelle Holland
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The Man Without a Face

by Isabelle Holland

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Fourteen year old Charles is desperate to pass the entrance exam to St Matthews; he failed it once but at the time it did not matter and he was unconcerned, but changes to his self-centred older sister's plans mean he was now desperate to go away to school, desperate enough to sacrifice his summer holiday to study. But can he do it on his own; rumour has it that the man who lives alone up on the cliff was once a teacher, the Man Without a Face, McLeod, disfigured by various causes according to rumour, Charles is willing to grasp at any straw.
Unwillingly McLeod takes Charles on, on strict conditions. Over the course of the summer an uneasy relationship between the boy and man grows into something beyond the ordinary, and over the course of the summer Charles, who one might initially call something of a smart-Alec with (despite his claims) a ready answer for most situations, matures into a thoughtful and caring young man.
This is a charming book, beautifully written and the with appealing main characters. These is pervading the novel an uneasy sense of pending doom, but what transpires is unexpected; I found it a most rewarding, relatively short read. ( )
  presto | Mar 4, 2014 |
This award-winning novel tells the story of a teenage misogynist and compulsive underachiever, Charles Norstadt (Chuck), who strains to pass his boarding school entrance exams the second time around and thereby escape the constraints of his much-married mother (castrating even in her desire to alter the cat which Chuck sees as ""just part of (her) wholesale plan for the taming and domesticating of the male species"") and nymphet sister. He finds a mentor in the horribly scarred and romantic recluse Justin McLeod who proves a demanding tutor (smashing some straw-man defenses of "progressive education"). This relationship between two emotional cripples leads to a once-only homosexual encounter (though the episode is handled very subtly). Chuck's bitterness is painfully real and the recognition of his sexual feelings commendably frank, but in return for this measure of honesty, the whole story is slanted to justify the daring subject matter -- the psychological underpinnings are intrusive (talk of Oedipus complexes and sibling rivalry), the twin mysteries in the pasts of Chuck's dead father and Justin unlikely, the decadence and nastiness of Chuck's family is somewhat over stressed. In spite of these flaws the novel works well, especially as a morality tale for young adults who, at least in 1971, may not be very sophisticated. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jan 27, 2013 |
Eleven year-old Charles Norstadt is the only male in a house of women: his Mother, who has just finished with her fourth husband and is on the lookout for Number Five; his hateful older sister Gloria; and his wise younger sister Meg. While at their summer cottage, Charles must study to pass the entrance exam at St. Matthew's, a boarding school he wants to attend to be away from Gloria. Unfortunately, he hasn't inherited his sisters' scholastic abilities, so Meg suggests that he ask Justin McLeod to coach him. Justin is the town recluse, mostly due to a horribly disfigured face. Charles manages to convince him to help, and a wonderful friendship ensues. Charles learns a lot about Justin, and a lot about himself.

My only negative about the book is that I found the ending rushed. It was a good ending, but I felt like the author was on a deadline and just wanted to finish it, so it wasn't as fleshed out as I wish it would have been. I would have enjoyed reading more. ( )
  tloeffler | Nov 14, 2009 |
The writing is good, and the story is only a little dated, but I thought it was rushed, and some things were not well explained. A couple of names were introduced to the story near the end, but their introduction was fuzzy. Who was Evans? How did the new stepfather, Barry, come to be a "staunch" friend of Justin McLeod's? Was it meant to be a story about homosexuality, or just a boy's need for a father figure? Ultimately, a little unsatisfying. Charles' family are very one-dimensional; is his Mom really so shallow and self-absorbed? His older sister really such an equally shallow narcissist? ( )
  fromthecomfychair | Jul 19, 2009 |
you never quite know what is going on in this book. it was written in 72 and is for young adults. so i find it hard to believe it's about being gay and man-boy love. but maybe it is. it ends a little too suddenly. ( )
  mahallett | Aug 19, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0064470288, Paperback)

Charles didn't know much about life ... until he met The Man Without a Face

"I'd never had a friend, and he was my friend; I'd never really, except for a shadowy memory, had a father, and he was my father. I'd never known an adult I could communicate with or trust, and I communicated with him all the time, whether I was actually talking to him or not. And I trusted him ......

Fourteen-year-old Charles desperately wants two things: a father and a way out. Little love has come his way until the summer he befriends a mysterious scarred man named Justin McLeod, nicknamed ""The Man Without a Face." Charles enlists McLeod's help as tutor for the St. Matthew's school entrance exams, his ticket away from the unpleasant restrictions of his home life. But more important than anything he could get out of a book, that summer Charles learns from McLeod a stirring life lesson about the many faces of love.

-Not much affection had come Charles’s way until the summer he was fourteen, when he met McLeod [a man whose face was deeply scarred] and learned that love has many facets.’ —BL. -A highly moral book, powerfully and sensitively written; a book that never loses sight of the human." —H.

1972 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)
Best of the Best Books (YA) 1970-1983 (ALA)
Outstanding Children's Books of 1972 (NYT)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:58 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A fatherless fourteen-year-old boy develops an unusual relationship with the man living near his summer home who helps him prepare his entrance exams to boarding school.

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