Customer Reviews of The Man Without a Face
Scale of one to ten - this book is a 73!
There's not really much I can say, except that this book is an exception to the stereotyped teen novels. This book has a subliminal moral from the beginning and quietly unravels throughout the book. I admit, I saw the movie first, but when I saw this novel in the library my heart raced when I thought of Nick Stahl and Mel Gibson. However, the endings are quite different. The book has a better one. (Note to guys who plan on reading this book: don't read in public - unless you want others to see you cry). Words cannot emphasize the impact of this novel enough, so I'll stop babbling. But, just for the record, I've read this book thirteen times. And Ms. Holland, if you read this . . . thanks.
'The Man Without A Face' is a heartwarming story of a fatherless fourteen year old boy who befriends the town "Grouch."
Justin McLeod is a former teacher who was in a car accident ten years before. Knowing he could never return to the life he once had, McLeod stays away from the public, going into town only when he needs to.
Chuck Norstadt failed the entrance exams for Saint Mathews and needs to desperately learn the material for a retest after the summer months. He learns from his younger sister that McLeod was a former teacher, and goes to him for help.
The friendship Chuck and Justin share is a heartwarming story for the whole family. Offering many themes to be learned and many surprises along the way.
If you loved the movie, starring Mel Gibson in his directorial debut as Justin McLeod, then read the book. It's a heart gripper and a tear jerker, but bound to please. -Shanno
Good reading- watch movie and then read
I bought the book because I liked the movie. I watched the movie several years ago and liked it then. I watched it again recently and it really hit home because the movie takes to heart the faulty assumptions people make about friendships... thinking they are all Freudian. In the movie, a genuine love (in the true, non-sexual sense of the word) develops between McLeod and Charles, the 14 year old boy. Gibson et. al. in the movie did a wonderful job of portraying the fact that it is not wrong for cross-generational loving friendships to develop. It addresses the prejudices people have about these relationships and I believe McLeod (played by Gibson) in the film shows true love by not dragging the issue out, which could easily damage the mind of Charles (all this is going along with the assumption that sexual contact did NOT occur in the movie- which most viewers are led to believe- especially if they have not yet read the book).
The book has its own merit and is good in its own sense. It is very easy to read (I read through in about 4 hours) and develops the characters well. I believe that Charles's relationship with his mother in the novel better fits the plot than the relationship in the movie. Each of the 5 main characters in the novel have well-defined needs, all of which are not developed in the movie. Charles's mother needs family and multiple social relationships. His older sister needs personality and control, while his younger sister (Meg) needs self-confidence and encouragement. The bond between Charles and Meg is accentuated by their mutual need and ability to fufill eachother's need for encouragement. While Charles slips at fulfillment occasionally, he does care for Meg (better displayed in the novel). Charles also needs a father-figure who truly cares about him (not out of obligation). Both his need for encouragement and need for a father-figure are met by McLeod, who he in turn provides needed companionship for.
The one thing I didn't like about the book as much as the movie was the way the "last night" scene was dealt with in the book. While the movie leads the viewer to believe that McLeod was a true, positive, non-sexual friend and mentor to Charles, the book leaves me thinking that there was more sexual attraction. I'm not going to try to say I know what the author was thinking or meaning by the "last night" scene. I do think that in the book there was attraction (shown by McLeod's quick negative reactions to moments when Charles showed son-like affection) and whether or not he really let his guard down when Charles's was down in the end is debatable since it is not explicitly stated (more so in the book that the movie). Read it for yourself and decide yourself. It could mean different things to different people.
I suggest watching the movie first because I like its portrayl of the relationship more. However, the book is good reading and will allow you to think more about the characters without turning you off as it could possibly do if you didn't watch the movie first.
A Platonic friendship
Isabelle Holland is a well-established writer of distinction and needs no plaudits from me. I had already seen the excellent film version of the `The Man without a Face' before reading the book, and indeed was impelled by the substance and beauty of the film to do so. I am very glad to have taken this further step: this slim volume is a minor masterpiece, gripping, insightful, and disturbing. And it is so easy, so natural to read - the boy tells his own story with all the guilelessness and spontaneity of youth. His emotional questions, problems and finally trauma are palpable.
It is an important book for another reason: it treats of a relationship between a teenage boy and an adult male, and the peculiar force that such a relationship can have. In these times when such contacts are often viewed as exploitative or even abusive, it is refreshing to find a story which presents a different picture. Here an adolescent (Charles Norstadt) struggling to cope with a family in emotional disarray, reaches out for help, support and love, which he finds - eventually and fleetingly - in the person of a lonely and eccentric retired teacher (Justin McLeod), who reluctantly responds to the boy's almost desperate plea to be coached for an all-important school entrance exam.
The author is too sophisticated to overplay the drama of the story's conclusion which (I have noted) has elicited some negative reviewer comment. There is a certain ambiguity about the physical contact which occurred, but seen in the context of the boy's pain and distress, it would seem unnatural to exclude such human contact even if - in Chuck's mind - there is subsequent concern for its implications. After all, Chuck had consciously `desired' to touch and be touched earlier in the story, which does not necessarily imply an overt sexual feeling. Whether or not this is important to know, the writer is sure of her ground as far as Justin is concerned - he at no point made any `overtures', and there is no suggestion that he wanted to.
This book is only mildly provocative but nonetheless makes a powerful statement on a theme of courage and love.
What an excellent book this is. In reading the reviews you may become confused as several reviewers have in fact reviewed the film, which was also very good, but very different. In fact, the last third of the film really has little to do with the last third of the novel.
We get to know Holland's characters and in the end there is a lot of redemption. Charles' step-father Barry really sums it up when he speaks of McLeod and says "his other talent for salvaging flawed and fallen creatures. Himself included." The book has lots of examples of the classic struggle of man against himself.
A book review should not really spend too much time comparing books and film. However, in this case its worth looking at both the film and the book. The book of course, published in 1972, was not subject to the modern North American tendency to run literature and film through a moral filter. The film, excellent in its own way did just that, I believe, and therefore we get a very different final third. The "man against-himself struggle" of the novel is replaced in the film with a "man against man/or society struggle" as McLeod is wrongly accused by the unjust "group". The latter is just little too Hollywood and the former made for better literature.
This is a quick read and I highly recommend it.