The Man Without a Face (book)

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The Man Without a Face is a book by Isabelle Holland about a BoyLover and his young friend: the treatment of the relationship is very sympathetic to BoyLovers.


See at the link below


Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; Reissue edition (June 30, 1987)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0064470288
ISBN-13: 978-0064470285

Differences between the original book and the film version

The film's treatment of sexuality between Justin McLeod and Chuck Norstadt differs from the book. In the novel which the movie is based on, McLeod behaves in a way that could be interpreted as child grooming, making friends, by taking Chuck swimming and being affectionate to him. Chuck, meanwhile, seems to be attracted to McLeod as more than just as a father figure. There is one scene where it is strongly implied that McLeod sexually abuses engages in a normal intergenerational sexual relationship with Chuck in his bedroom. In the film, McLeod demonstrates no sexual interest in the boy at all, even though Chuck appears downstairs in his underwear when the police officer calls. Critics have noted that the book's criticism of homophobia had been obscured in the film version. (NOTE: Adapted, with minor corrections, from the Wikipedia article on the film.)



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. [1]

Source of above quote:

One customer's description follows (from above source):

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."[2]

The following description is from

"The Man Without A Face," by Isabelle Holland, is the story of fourteen-year-old Charles Norstadt who lives with his family in an apartment in New York City. During summer break from school, the family moves temporarily to their summer home on a peninsula on the Atlantic Coast. Charles is not a happy youngster. His mother is always "on his case." She's critical of his behavior, his activities, his poor performance at school, and his father, her second ex-husband. His mother considers marrying his father the "biggest mistake" she ever made.

Charles' mother is a middle-aged woman who is described as beautiful and youthful for her age. She has four ex-husbands and is working on a fifth marriage. Gloria, Charles' elder sister, follows her mother's lead and treats Charles with as much disdain or even more than her mother. Gloria is seventeen and resembles her mother. Her mother favors Gloria because she is the symbol of her own beauty and youth which are both slipping away.

When Charles learns that Gloria's plans to go away to school have changed and that she will be at home in their New York apartment that fall, Charles decides he must act. He cannot envision spending another four years with his mother and Gloria. Charles' younger sister, Meg, is fat and not as attractive as Gloria. Charles and Meg both feel like outcasts and often share their feelings about dealing with their mother and Gloria.

Charles wants to attend St. Matthews boarding school but he flunked the entry exam. He learns from the school that he will have one more chance to qualify. If he passes his second attempt at an entry exam, he will be accepted by the school. Charles is mature and savvy enough to know that he won't be able to do that without help. Meg proposes that he ask the "man without a face," a reclusive man who is terribly disfigured as a teacher, to tutor him.

Initially, Charles dismisses his sister's idea but eventually he determines that tutoring with the mysterious man may be a good idea. He doesn't want to let his mother or Gloria know what he's doing and sabotage his plans. By being tutored by this man, Justin McLeod, who does not talk to anyone, he should be able to keep his efforts a secret.

McLeod is at first against tutoring Charles but he ultimately agrees to help him, sensing that the young boy is trying to strike out, improve his life, and follow his dream. McLeod is not used to being around other people and at first is remote, distant, and all business. But Charles and McLeod eventually begin to understand and appreciate each other and a bond is formed. Charles sees his missing father in McLeod and McLeod sees Charles as his chance to redeem himself for his actions that resulted in the death of a young boy some years before.

The tutoring is successful and Charles is accepted at St. Matthews. Charles feels compelled to see McLeod again because their last time together was confusing and complicated. Charles wants to make their relationship right again but discovers that McLeod died just a month before. McLeod left his entire estate to Charles except his dog and horse which were given to a man who, like McLeod, has a talent to take damaged creatures and fix them. Looking back, Charles feels that he was damaged goods himself and was rescued by McLeod.[3]


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

External links

  • The book may be downloaded at this link:

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