Newest Review: ... 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 bo... more
You had me from the first chapter.....
You Had Me At Hello - Mhairi McFarlane
Member Name: Holland1
You Had Me At Hello - Mhairi McFarlane
Advantages: Strong characters, engaging writing style, few sub-plots
Disadvantages: None for me
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)
Summary: Can't wait for the next book from this author