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The Man Without a Face by Isabelle Holland
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The Man Without a Face (edition 1987)

by Isabelle Holland

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2251075,815 (4.01)18
Member:qgdbsmom
Title:The Man Without a Face
Authors:Isabelle Holland
Info:HarperTeen (1987), Paperback, 160 pages
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The Man Without a Face by Isabelle Holland

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
3.5 stars - I really liked this book up until the end. The very end almost made me give it two stars. Before the last chapter or so, I was tempted to give it 4.5 or even 5. Love the author's writing style and can't wait to seek out more of her stuff. The movie was actually better, which I figured because this book was so short and the movie so brilliant and indepth. There are some differences, but the main things remain the same. A beautiful and psychologically rich story, wonderful characterization, although McLeod seemed a bit more wooden in written form than he was on screen played well by Mel Gibson. Charles is convincing, and his dysfunctional family dynamic intriguing. Worth reading if you enjoyed the movie (or haven't seen it, whichever), although the end is souring. Sexuality is more focused on with the book rather than the film, with an almost confusing bend. What really bugged me during the last pages is what happened to a main character. It's like an uplifting surge of the heart through growth and recovery from the past, through friendship and understanding, to unfairness and being sold short.

As to the very end, no, I don't think he was molested. I think the writer was saying he was ashamed as he had an...err, normal teenage boy reaction that embarrassed him after the trauma and then having close contact. Homophobia is a major theme in the book, starting with the mother wanting her son to avoid boarding school because the previous stepfather insists it turns boys into homosexuals. Charles later worrying about that and asking his teacher. Charles at the end of book was ashamed and didn't want to speak about what his body did, the writer delicately putting it in the only way she could as the character begins to realize he's gay. McLeod admits he is also gay but I don't see any sign they did anything. McLeod was telling him it was a natural reaction and not to worry about it "for years", which is why he wanted to talk about it then and not avoid the conversation. ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
I read this years ago as a teenager & recall it was pretty good, but there was some pretty creepy subtext, especially at the end, that ruined it for me. I've never had the urge to re-read it & skipped the movie starring Mel Gibson even though I heard it was pretty good. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Aug 18, 2014 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:37 -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.

(summary from another edition)

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