It was hard to make the decision as to what my final ‘Top 5’ book would be of last year but after some mulling, it had to be this.
You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane.
Perhaps it was the familiar surroundings of Manchester, which helped me warm to this book. Having resided in the fair city of Manchester for the past 26 years, it certainly helped me get a more vivid imagery of the street names and the bars the characters frequented. But it was more than that.
I’m the first to admit that I’m not a fan of ‘chick lit’ it’s never appealed to me, I usually find it so cheesy that it can be suffocating, and trust me I like me a bit of cheese. But Mhairi seemed to avoid most of the clichés and cheesiness and added something almost cynical to the overall tone of the novel, which I think, connected to my sceptical view of romance in the modern literary world. It follows the story of Rachel and Ben who were life long friends, and at one point a little bit more. Fast-forward to current day and Ben is married and Rachel is, well, in between life partners. A chance meeting on a rainy day takes Rachel back to old feelings and it isn’t long before she begins fantasizing about Ben being more than a friend again.
Granted, it wasn’t new ground that Mhairi had tread upon, but she wrote this with such wit that it would have been difficult to have not loved it a little bit. The protagonist, Rachel is easy to love and relate to and there are plenty of little frame stories that add the likeability of Rachel’s friends, as well as add to drama of Rachel’s day to day life. Ben is likeable, although younger Ben seems a little cocky, but that can be forgiven, as he’s quite the sweetheart once he’s older. McFarlane flits perfectly between the past and present and manages to provide a novel that has all the appeal of a standard book of this genre but delivers it with some intelligence and pizazz that other novels of that ilk usually avoid. A great little read, that had me genuinely laughing in places and even urging characters to say more, it’s easy to love.