“ Author: Mhairi McFarlane / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 06 December 2012 / Genre: Romance / Subcategory: Romance General / Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers / Title: You Had Me at Hello / ISBN 13: 9780007488056 / ISBN 10: 0007488056 „
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I'd read fantastic reviews of this book on Amazon, so when I found it on a shelf at my local library I couldn't believe my luck! I was in the mood to read something fun and not too challenging and this was going to fit the bill in my opinion. On the whole I would say that it lived up to my expectations.
The story revolves around Rachel and Ben. They went to university together and were great friends, but the extent of how far their friendship went is kept a mystery until the later stages of the book. In the current day, Rachel has just come out of a 13 year relationship and Ben is married. Rachel and Ben have not had any contact for 10 years and at the start of the book, it's not clear why. We slowly find out more about their past friendship as the book goes on. The story is actually written in a way that takes us back and forth through time. For example the first two chapters concentrate on the current day, but the third chapter transports us back in to time when Rachel and Ben are back at university. The whole book is written with Rachel as the narrator and I would say that this works quite well. In fact I liked the way that each chapter was either the current day or the past, as it made things interesting and helped to build up the mystery about what really happened between Ben and Rachel.
Overall, this was a fun and light-hearted book to read. Some parts were really quite funny and the book is written in a very humorous and witty way. There were one or two times when I thought the author was trying a little too hard to keep things funny and I would have preferred a more plain, straight-talking style of writing, but overall I didn't really object. As I said the style of writing was quite witty and so I did need to go back and re-read some sentences to make sure I fully appreciated the joke/wit. But on the whole it was easy and fun to read.
Although I didn't know exactly what to expect at the end of the book, I did expect a fairly predictable ending and that's exactly what I got. I suppose there was a small twist which was a little less expected but then with this genre I'm used to the anti-climax at the end. That might sound a bit harsh but it shouldn't! This is exactly the reason that sometimes all I want to read is chick-lit... it's safe and dependable!
My conclusion is that if you love reading humorous chick-lit, you will love reading this. It would make a great holiday read.
The last few books I have reviewed I have raved about them and gone on and on about how much I enjoyed them... I knew my run of good reads must come to an end sooner or later and it has done; with this book. It was recommended to me by Amazon who thought I would like it, sadly they were wrong! I downloaded it to my Kindle for about £2.99 and I kind of regret having spent that on it.
The story tells of Rachel who begins the book by having an argument with her fiance about the music they'd like at their wedding. Within 2 pages she has gone from discussing wedding music to deciding to split up with him. The book then goes on to show Rachel with her friends Caroline, Ivor and Mindy who she went to university with. Caroline tells her that she bumped in to her old friend Ben at the library. Obviously, Rachel then goes to the library and happens to bump into Ben and as you can guess it's obvious there is history between Rachel and Ben. The story goes back and forth from university days to present day and we see that there is still a spark between the two of them but Ben is married and it appears that his friend Simon is interested in Rachel... or is he? Is he really trying to stir trouble?
The characters were rather bland and typical. I mean this insofar as I didn't feel like I could relate to any of them, it didn't move me the things they said, I wasn't irritated by them when they did irritating things, they were just not created in a way which made them believable. I could see the kind of people that this author was trying to create but there there was just something lacking. I couldn't work out if Rachel was supposed to be a hard-faced, tom boy or if she was a girlie girl, it just seemed to be one extreme to another without it being mentioned so I don't think the author really knew herself. The character of Ben seemed a 'too good to be true' kind of person, it just all seemed a bit odd and wishy washy.
The story was very disjointed, it went from university days to present days from one chapter to the next but didn't state what date we were in so often it would take me a paragraph or two to work out that we had gone back in time again and this was rather irritating. Other books can work really well by having past and present being told at the same time but this felt disjointed and jerky.
The dialogue between the characters wasn't well written either. Often I lost who had said what and had to read back to work out who was talking and some of it just felt as though it was written in a rush, I felt as though I was at a party and wasn't keeping up with the story when people were talking. It was rather irritating.
The story line itself was what really let this book down. As soon as I head read the first few pages I could have told you how this book would pan out. From trying to pre-empt whether Rachel and Ben would end up together to knowing what else was happening in terms of her work and her friends Mindy and Ivor it was just glaringly obvious. It was just full of clichéd moments and so very predictable. Nothing in this story was novel, nothing blew me away and in fact it just made me roll my eyes thinking 'here we go again'. This is a really poor example of chick lit, it's embarrassing actually as it's so weak on the story front with no twists whatsoever. It was made worse by the fact that this author tried to be funny, I could tell she was trying to be humorous like Sophie Kinsella or Marian Keyes but she just couldn't pull it off, it was more cringe-worthy like the embarrassing friend trying to tell a joke at a party, it had that effect on me. It started off so rushed with Rachel one minute talking weddings to suddenly calling it off, it felt as though a whole chapter had been missing prior to this, it was rather odd beginning a book in this way.
I really didn't enjoy this book as it was just so wishy washy, predictable and we've seen it all before. I am giving it 2 stars because it at least was easy to read but that was about it! It really isn't anything new at all and I do feel bad for criticising it so much but if I had written this book I'd be cringing at my own downfall! I didn't even want to finish this book as I felt it was a waste of my time but I kept thinking surely it will get better... I should have stuck with my instincts as it didn't get better.
Sorry to say I won't be recommending this.
I bought this book on Play Books to read on my phone, for no reason other than it was £1.99 and I liked the sound of it. I hadn't heard of Mhairi McFarlane prior to this, however I am pleased to say my risk taking paid off, and this is an author I will definitely be keeping an eye on in the future.
Rachel and Ben were best friends at university, but have not seen each other since graduating. Now in their early thirties, the novel opens with Rachel breaking up with her long term partner, Rhys. When she hears from a mutual friend that Ben is back in Manchester, she engineers a "chance" meeting between them, and despite Ben being married, they rekindle their friendship. Can this end happily for either party? Is Rachel doomed to be single? You'll have to read the book to find out.
Although the plot makes this book sound like a fairly predictable and one-dimensional chick-lit novel, I honestly think there is so much more to it than boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-back-together-with-girl fairytale. That's not a spoiler by the way, that's just my interpretation of the blurb when I first decided to read the book.
Instead, I discovered that this novel was far deeper than Mills and Boon style romance, and speaks some harsh truths about finding yourself newly single in your early thirties. I am fortunate enough to never have found myself in this position, although I did break up from a long term partner at the age of 27 and looking back I seemed to remember that I thought I was destined to be a spinster...little did I realise that it would instead be the making of me.
This book would be well received by anyone in their early thirties, as it touches on issues such as finding yourself newly single and everyone assuming you're going to end up living alone with cats, trying to advance your career, keeping friendships maintained when everyone is so busy and at different stages in life, and finding yourself taking pleasure in more docile activities such as watching TV in bed with your partner...and preferring it to the thought of being in a nightclub!
The book alternates between telling the current day story, and switches to their university days to fill in some of the background of their friendship. I found this a very engaging way of telling the story, because it helped me to understand the characters' actions, and meant I was following two stories rather than just the main plot. The pace of the book is just right for me, it picked up about two thirds of the way into the book to the extent that I was very reluctant to put it down, but prior to this it held my attention in a non-sleep-depriving way.
The making of this book is definitely the strength of the characters. I identified with Rachel right from the beginning, and could see she had settled into coupledom and wasn't truly happy, living the life everyone else believed she should be rather than doing what made her happy. She is a court-room journalist, who works hard and has a close circle of friends, Mindy, Ivor and Caroline. The book is written in first person, so we get a real insight into what's going on in Rachel's head. This is accentuated at times by the author writing her thoughts in italics when she's in dialogue, a technique which made me laugh on a fair few occasions. I really got quite attached to this character, and wanted things to work out for her.
Ben is a strange character in that he is very likeable, and although I wanted Rachel to get her man back, I was also unsure whether I wanted anything to happen between them because of his wife. We only really see things from Rachel's point of view, but I could tell by Ben's behaviour that he cared deeply about Rachel, even if her self-esteem is too low to see this.
There are other characters who feature in this novel in small ways, including Rachel's friends who have relationship issues of their own, and her competitive work colleagues who can at times make life difficult in order to get the scoop on the latest story. Rachel's work does feature heavily in this novel, and this is an element I enjoyed as it was a bit different to the usual occupations female protagonists tend to have, although she does appear to be slightly naïve in her field, rather than the story grabbing back stabbing journalist you might expect.
==Would I recommend?==
Although this book does have an element of chick-lit about it, it also has a couple of unusual sub-plots and is written in an engaging way. The characters are strong, the language is witty and entertaining, and it managed to make me laugh but also pull on my heartstrings at the same time. I would liken this book to David Nicholls' "One Day", as it's a little more gritty and real than some of the more predictable chick-lit books. This is one of the best books I've read recently, and I'm giving it five stars.
(Review also on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)
Who hasn't got a 'one that got away'? Or maybe several? Rachel and Ben meet at university in Manchester, but she's got a boyfriend back home, and he's a bit of a ladies man, so rather than settle down together (which is arguably what at least one of them thinks they should have done), they pad through a few years as fellow students and then go their separate ways. After a while Rachel heads back to Manchester and some time well after that, Ben finds himself back up north too. They bump into each other and it's like nothing has changed. Except everything has changed. Rachel is hot off a broken engagement, while Ben is married to a hotshot lawyer from Lan-dan. Will their past stay in the past, and do they want it to? Told from Rachel's point of view, this is a story that sets out to answer those, and other questions.
I won't deny that part of my score for this one comes from the fact I loved reading a book set in Manchester than bore actual resemblance to the Manchester I've lived in for most of the last 12 years. Aside from a snide comment about my certain part of town, and an odd trip to Platt Fields for lunch (really? From the city centre? Who would do that?) this was a book that rang true. Pubs like the Castle and the Woodstock not only exist but are places I've been, and you feel a little bit of an insider seeing them mentioned, like when they show your home town on the news or film a sitcom in the office block next door.
I also really enjoyed the tales of Rachel's work as a court reporter, slightly more specialised than the generic journalist so many lead characters seem to find themselves being (all too often as a result of the author's previous / current career path). It not only added an extra dimension to the story but also worked really well to link together different things, like Ben's mate Simon's involvement in everything.
This is a really funny book. It's not one of those accidentally amusing titles, but actually sets out to be funny. And it succeeds. It's chick lit but not your usual hearts and flowers kind, so it makes a refreshing change to see how else the genre can be done. The way the book flits back and forth from student days to the present, and the general relationship Rachel and Ben have is a bit reminiscent of 'One Day' but really they're not that similar... and You had me... is a lot funnier.
This is a book with a touch of reality to it. It may be that not everything works out in the end, but that's life, and the way the story wanders on shows a natural feeling of progression, both to the ploy and to the characters as people. It's slick and easy to read, and I wanted to keep going with it to find out what happened to the characters next in the present, and what had happened to them next in the past.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Out now in paperback and on Kindle