Thursday, 24 July 2014

#CBR6 14: You Had Me At Hello, Mhairi McFarlane

Page count: 436 pages
Time taken: 3.5 hours

Rachel has been with her fiancé Rhys since before she went to university, until an argument over their wedding DJ sees her ending their relationship and moving out. This coincides with an old friend (Ben) moving back to Manchester, and Rachel finds herself examining her life in detail, both past and present. Her work as a court reporter, her friendship group, and Ben’s wife, all serve as complications which she has to juggle. As the layers of concealment and deception build up, she has to decide which truths to reveal, and which to bury for good.

I love this book. Every part of it is perfect to me. The only criticism I have about it is that it makes me nostalgic for university. That’s it. Everything else is great. The characters are engaging, flawed, and well-rounded; the relationships are all believable; there’s no fat-shaming, or slut-shaming, or stupid frothy girly twee bullshit. It’s one of the few books I own in more than one format, purely so I can lend people the book so that they can love it as much as I do. (Also, I had a voucher for Sainsbury’s and it was perfectly priced to use up the rest that wasn’t spent on a stockpot, which was also a very good purchase.)

I was reminded a lot of Jane Austen – not in terms of the plot, which is very different, but in the pointed observations of people, subversive humour, and tidiness of the story. There are a lot of laugh-out-loud funny bits – I suspect it helps to have a dry, dark, and occasionally twisted sense of humour - and the book is a fast and compelling read.

This is McFarlane’s first book, and it really announced her as a rising new star of contemporary romance in Britain. I’ll review her second book once I finish it (for the second time), and she’s on my “buy immediately and keep forever” list. She’s also on Twitter ( @mhairmcf ) and is just as funny in 140 characters. I hope that it marks a watershed moment in romance fiction as well, where more authors try to avoid the worst tropes of the genre – if you want any examples of those, feel free to browse my Alpha’s Touch boxset reviews, which range from the depressed to the disgusted. YHMAH is the perfect cure for all such shit.

5 stars: reaffirms faith in humanity whilst being, to quote the book, a proper lol.

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