The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper – romance, comedy, trauma, memories and the future


A sudden glimpse of a person across a street can be all it takes to begin a relationship, and for Samuel and Sophie that is all it took. In the middle of the American capital, Samuel spots a woman with a bright green umbrella. The beginning of their week together  is special, as they discover both the romantic spots and his quiet apartment. He picks up images of her which will last, small intimate details which show a delicate writing style in direct contrast to some of the broader humour of his Irish family. This is a book which stretches across two countries in a gentle comedy of romance, missed opportunities and misunderstandings. In a corporate world of secrets, a betrayal is suggested and keenly felt. The difficulties of a contemporary relationship is explored in this book, with life changing events quickly succeeding each other in the light of past traumas. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this engaging book. 


Sophie Williams is a young woman who has worked hard to achieve her current role as an accountant. She has been determined to achieve promotion and more, so finds herself in Washington to investigate a possible company takeover. She is shown getting dressed in her hotel room like putting on armour, which tries to conceal not only her personality but her memories of past trauma. It is only her choice of bright yellow coat and green umbrella that catches the eye of Samuel McLaughlin. Their chaotic meeting extends over a week, and changes both of them forever.


This book depends on the revelation of character when challenged. It includes tragedies that affect people in various ways, and unexpected challenges that they must deal with. Not that this is a sad book, but it does acknowledge that bad and traumatic things happen, and how people react is the theme of the novel. There is plenty of humour to be found in the descriptions of Samuel’s family, which I really enjoyed.


This book is a romantic comedy in some respects, but has far more to say about the nature of love, the persistence of hope, and the problems and trauma of memories. The characters of Samuel and Sophie are really well constructed. The plot of the book is really well constructed, and the intricacies of business life well handled. It has things to say about childhood memories, and how they can be constructively dealt with in adulthood. This is a book which seeks to reflect real life in all its complexity and confusion, as people make snap decisions but also work to overcome barriers. Some of it is touching and moving, while other parts amuse and entertain. 


I enjoyed the skilful and clever writing in this novel, and found it really difficult to put down. I found the character of Samuel particularly attractive, as he deals with a lot of challenges throughout the book. Without spoiling the plot, I would say that this book does fulfil its early promise, and I recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction.