When I started this book I thought it’d be just another chic-lit-esk romance, but it was so much more than that and this author is now going to be one of my go-to authors when I need a comfort read that goes that little bit further.
You Had Me at Hello works in alternate chapters which seems to be the structure of the day as far as literature goes. The two main protagonists are Rachel and Ben who've known each other since University where they met in first year. As far as we know they were never anything more than friends, although we do get hints to the contrary. Something undefined happened between them at the very end of their studies and they lost touch, but one of Rachel’s friends sees Ben ten years after University at the local library in Manchester. Rachel, who has just ended a long-term relationship with her fiancée, goes to the library in the hopes of accidentally-on-purpose bumping into Ben. She does bump into him, as she’d hoped, and they go for coffee together where he tells her he’s now married and living in Manchester after previously having lived with his wife in London. From this point onwards they reignite their friendship. There’s nothing romantic going on as Ben is married, although there are some undertones of sexual-tension.
Alternate chapters usually work, but not as successfully as it did here. It really elevated the structure and revealed more pieces of the puzzle each time. It was such an immersive experience that I nearly forgot I was reading.
Apart from the structure, which was simply excellent, the characters were fantastic and I mean every last one. Rachel was so lovely and funny I began wishing she was my friend and her interaction with Ben was perfect. Rachel had a group of friends and this was the only part that felt a little contrived. Her three friends were almost clique, but they were really interesting none-the-less. Mindy, one of the group, was a bit of a girly-girl type. Ivor, another one of the group, was a little hard to figure out and the last friend, whose name I’ve forgotten, wasn’t hugely interesting. I know I said before that all the characters were fantastic and even though I’ve said Rachel’s friends felt a little false, I’m referring to their interactions rather than their personality types. Considering the interaction between Ben and Rachel was so authentic, this made certain other relationships, i.e. the group of friends, not as good.
What elevated this for me was the way Ben and Rachel’s relationship was handled so deftly and how realistic it all felt. Other issues were dealt with as well (their main focus being relationships) and somehow this was managed in a complex, but yet simple way.
Overall I really enjoyed this one and I recommend anyone and everyone to give Mhairi McFarlane a try.