You Had Me At Hello- Mhairi McFarlane

Rachel, a reporter in her early thirties, has an epiphany and breaks up with her fiancé after thirteen years together. Just as most of her graduate peers are settling down (or just settling), breeding, and furnishing their houses like proper grown-ups, Rachel is starting over; even if it is in a fabulous borrowed Manchester city centre party-flat. To add to the stress, Rachel has the chance at a big reporting scoop, a work-related moral dilema, a potential new man, and a reappearance of her college best-mate Ben with his beautiful new wife. This is a very British tale with themes including the transition from studenthood to adulthood, marriage, timing, friendship, love, and having the guts to pull the plug on a long term relationship that isn’t working.

Kooks for your Kindle?– Rachel has a loyal coterie from her college days, reminiscent of Bridget Jones’ friends, but more authentic. Eccentric Mindy with Indian origins, Caroline the slightly posh married friend, and Ivor the lone male finding his way- he has a particularly hilarious scene near the end. Rachel’s introduction to Ben’s wife was well written- Rachel being the college friend with a history you don’t share, his wife unsure if they were always platonic. I suspect many of us have those old friends that have taken to adulthood more easily, and seem to have it all together with the house, career, money, and marriage. Of course all is not always as it seems.

The Bella-Swan-Pathetically-Self-Sacrificing-Factor?– I found Rachel particularly easy to empathise and identify with. I loved the way she decisively broke up with her fiancé, with whom she was comfortable but not happy, and got on with it. I’ve been there, although at a younger age, and there will always be people who think you’ve made a bad decision without them knowing the inner workings of the relationship. Rachel is north of thirty when it happens, and is brave enough to ignore well-meant ‘clock-ticking’ warnings. It’s nice to read of an intelligent heroine who is not shopping obsessed and does not fall into ditzy scrapes of her own making.

Painting a picture for your paperback?– The whole tale is set in urban Manchester and structured with occasional flashbacks to Ben and Rachel’s friendship as students, from the day they met. This format works well to keep the reader hooked. Former students will be transported straight back to the scary first days of meeting new friends, finding your way, S.U. bars, learning to consume massive amounts of alcohol, and grotty halls of residence. The present day tale could work in any city, but fits well in Manchester, focusing on the Court house where Rachel is based as a reporter, and the ridiculously decorated loft-flat that she is house-sitting having left her fiance.

Evaluation of your eBook?– Any book that resonates so strongly with me (and throws in at least two Star Wars references to boot) is always going to rate highly on my scale, but I think others will enjoy it too. The tone of the book felt less frothy than the cover and title would suggest, it seemed more substantial (in length too): it was a pleasantly surprising, intelligent read. The first-person narrative is witty and sharp, although some of the pop-culture references will be lost on non-British readers, but it’s a heartfelt tale of love and finally realising what you want. The outcome is as it should be, and the very end is not as dramatic as the rest of the tale, but satisfying. Overall a very thoughtful page turner and an absolute bargain.

Frothy Ranking: 5/5 cocktails.

Can be obtained from:

UK: Available from Amazon, Waterstones and WHSmith for only 99p. Oh no! It’s gone up to £3.50. Still worth it though!

US: On Amazon I’ve seen the price vary from $1.62 to $4.74. Kobobooks have it for $7.29
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