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The Face of Innocence

William Sansom
Date Published
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The Face of Innocence, first published in 1951, tells the tale of Harry Camberley, his oldest friend – the unnamed narrator – and Harry’s beautiful fiancée Eve. Both men fall in love with Eve at first sight, but it soon becomes clear that her grasp on reality is slipping; she prefers to lose herself, and those around her, in fantasy. Talked into subterfuge by Harry, his friend begins to wonder if Eve is a conventional girl fallen on hard times, or if there are darker secrets in her past. When the three take a holiday on the French Riviera, Eve’s peculiarly open deceitfulness takes a new turn, and this time the consequences will be disastrous if Harry discovers the truth.

William Sansom said of this book:

The author of The Face of Innocence might very well be confused with the author in The Face of Innocence: indeed, there are many similarities. There must be, for most novels are based, however much they are thereafter reshaped, on a wisp of personal experience. Let me say first, then, that the Eve, the woman in the book, is more than a wisp. I have had the debatable pain and assuredly the pleasure of meeting about five of her in the course of my life; and have heard the strains of several more passing here and there.

I wrote The Face of Innocence whilst living in a Victorian house in North London. It had a garden, left half-wild by the war, and these surroundings stimulated what I believe to be a most important need in literature today – to find magic in what are called ‘ordinary’ things.


William Sansom (1912-1976) was a leading writer of his day, both for fiction and non-fiction. In 1946 and 1947 he was awarded two literary prizes by the Society of Authors, and in 1951 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. During the Second World War he became a full-time London firefighter, serving throughout the Blitz. His experiences…

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