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The Man without a Face Paperback – June 30, 1987

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; Reissue edition (June 30, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064470288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064470285
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.3 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I bought this book for my 13 year old daughter for her Pre-AP summer reading.
Isabelle Young is purportedly writing for young adults, but I think a lot of the story's subtleties would be lost on younger readers.
Joshua D. Reitano
The book has lots of examples of the classic struggle of man against himself.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Man Without a Face engaged me from the first page. I picked it up because I had heard of (but not seen) the movie, and was further intrigued because I have read and liked some of Holland's mysteries. Finished Man without a Face in one sitting. Among other things, this book shows the complexity of human relationships, and how difficult it is to judge any relationship from the outside. One of the other reviewers takes the most negative view of the relationship: that it is predatory, with Justin's goal being the seduction of Charles. The most generous view is that the sexual event happened with no action on Justin's part other than holding Charles to comfort him. Given Justin's actions throughout the book, the latter is the interpretation I would place on it. I am curious, of course, what Isabelle Holland intended, and would love to know the genesis of this story.
I do think she copped out on the ending. While it neatly tied up the close of the book, life is rarely that tidy, and what's more, Charles will be haunted by Justin the rest of his (fictional) life. Thank god he has Barry, who becomes a real person to Charles toward the end of the book.
A book to be read and discussed in the family. Freedom and consequences, love, trust, intimacy, affection, and boundaries: all important themes that are worth considering whether one is 14 or 44.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By T. Patrick Killough on April 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Teacher/student relationships are as old as Mentor and Telemachus in the ODYSSEY. Think also of GOODBYE, MR CHIPS and TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS.***
Like other reviewers I first saw the Mel Gibson movie, then decided to read the book. Surprising to me was how different the two are. The book dates from 1972 and perhaps the revisions for the movie are an attempt at a retelling for more recent times. The decidedly athletic boy who in the book walked twice a day for four or five miles one way to his mentor's home is replaced in the film by a less vigorous boy on a bike. Pot smoking is important in the book, insignificant in the film.***
In the book the teacher does not have his pupil learn math by digging square holes in his yard. The book is altogether more conventional, low key and pedestrian. In the book the boy is obviously seriously concerned about his sexuality, which is barely looked at in the film.***
On balance, I think the book holds up better. The movie is more like a negative book review of the book than an original film. Normally, films eliminate scenes from a book. THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE adds scenes and changes the ending. This reminds of the pointlessly changed ending of the recent film verion of Graham Greene's THE END OF THE AFFAIR.***
The book is indeed an easy, quick read. But it is put together by a master and in its simplicity rings truer than the film.-OOO-
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Skywalker on October 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
I was not planning on writing a review on this book, but I find myself surprised and also a little shocked about many of the reviews already written here. Most of the readers are doing Isabelle Holland no credit, and exaggerating the film version's value.
Mel Gibson used this well-written novel to portray himself as a tragic hero, skipping the actual topic of the novel, which is, plainly said, about growing up. This is already clear enough seeing that in the film, Charles is a boy of ten, while in the book he is fourteen and thus on the verge of puberty. The "tragic" accent is emphasized at the ending when the two friends are forced apart by a prejudiced, narrow-minded environment.

By many reviewers here, the book version of McLeod is called a molester, even a rapist; all because Holland, who wrote the book in the Seventies, did not clearly write what the famous "last night" was all about. It can't have been seduction or rape by someone who did his utmost to win a boy's trust only to get him into bed; Charles is not a fool, he would have realized this and hated McLeod. Instead, love and gratitude for him remain throughout the end of the novel. McLeod did not seek Charles out, it was the boy who did so, because he needed a teacher; throughout their friendship, McLeod never touched or spoke to Charles in any way that could have been called seductive; and it was Charles who came to him in their last night searching for comfort after a severe shock.
"I couldn't stop shaking; in fact, I started to tremble violently. It was like everything - the water, the sun, the hours, the play, the work, the whole summer - came together. The golden cocoon had broken open and was spilling in a shower of gold.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Emile Lucien on March 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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