Published by Avon Books on 6th December 2012
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Source: Purchased from Amazon
Buy on Amazon US • Buy on Amazon UK
What happens when the one that got away comes back?
Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart.
It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.
From the moment they met they’d been a gang of two; partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on. Ben is married. Rachel is definitely not. In fact, the men in her life make her want to take holy orders…
Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.
If you love David Nicholls and Lisa Jewell then this is the book for you. Hilarious, heartbreaking and everything in between, you’ll be hooked from their first ‘hello’.
Reviewed by Kay
*I bought the ebook from Amazon UK*
In the spirit of a Throwback Thursday, I thought I would review one of my all time very favourite books, the fabulous You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane. It’s certainly a throwback review for us Brits as YHMAH was released back in 2012 here, however, as it’s only been out in the US for a couple of months, maybe this book and author will be new to some of our overseas friends. If that’s the case, let me tell you, it’s a total gem of a book that you should absolutely snap up immediately. Let me try to explain why I love it so much.
YHMAH is the story of Rachel and Ben. University friends who, back in the day, had a bond so close, a rapport so in sync, that surely nothing would ever come between them. That is, of course, until the day something did. Since that fateful day, 10 years have past with no contact between the two until a “chance” encounter has them literally bumping into each other again. In a reversal of roles from university, we find present day Rachel working as a court reporter in Manchester, newly single after recently splitting from long term love Ryhs, while her previously playboy pal Ben is now a married lawyer, who has very much settled down. But is everything quite as it seems? Can they pick up their friendship where they left off and will the old chemistry still be there between them?
I have to say, I loved Rachel. She is sharp, witty and clever. There is something so real and familiar about her, that she absolutely feels like an old friend. I adored her bravery in not sticking with her relationship with Ryhs who, after reaching that “we’ve been together so long, I guess we better just get on and do it” point, had recently become her fiancé. In a brilliantly observed chapter, Rachel wakes up to the fact that being with someone out of habit, familiarity or blind loyalty can leave you in a lonelier place than actually being alone and single, so, very wisely and pretty bravely, ends their relationship. Ryhs, like all the secondary characters in this novel, is so well written. We’ve all met couples like that, who seem to drift in lazy relationships and refuse to face up to facts or try to mend the cracks that have formed, almost through fear of losing face –
“I’m not sitting there while you tell some speccy wonk at Relate about what a bastard I am to you. I’m not putting the wedding off. Either we do it, or forget it”
The banter, jokes and easy flow of conversation you see in the flashback chapters of Ben and Rachel at Uni, are so lacking in her interactions with Ryhs, that you know they both deserve better in life. After all, it is the sense of humour that Ms McFarlane displays in her writing, particularly with Rachel, that is at the very heart of this book. She gives Rachel such a self-deprecating wit, such a brilliantly funny inner voice, that many times, I found myself laughing out loud –
“I arrive back home on a short-lived high, until I discover that, while the pop-video lighting in the changing rooms made me look like an ‘Addicted To Love’ girl, in the fading daylight it’s a bit more ‘Mafia widow who’s been hitting the tortellini in her grief'”
Her insecurities when she meets up again with her ridiculously charismatic, one time best friend Ben, make her all the more endearing. You totally feel her ‘whoosh” of disappointment when she spots his silver wedding band, and it makes you all the more intrigued to find out exactly what happened between them all those years ago –
“The name gives me a twinge. All the Sloaney-I’ve-got-a-pony girls on our course were called things like Olivia and Tabitha and Veronica and we used to take arms against them in our non-posh gang of two. And he traitorously married one of them. I momentarily wish I had a Toby to wield in retaliation”
As the book unfolds, you absolutely feel Rachel’s inner conflict. On the one hand, Ben was, and still feels like, her very best friend. Of course she wants him to be happy in life, but she cannot help but feel sorry for herself that she isn’t the cause of said happiness. As they spend more time together, and the easy, fun friendship we see in the uni flashback chapters, creeps back into their present day lives, you can’t help but root for them to be together. But life has moved on, and so it appears, has Ben.
“I wanted him to be happy and it was also going to be the thing that hurt the most”
Ben is a gorgeous character. His likeability, warmth and charm ooze from the very page. He is sharp and funny, but you can tell underneath that lighthearted exterior is a man with real loyalty and integrity. There were times in the book when my heart broke for him, such was his inner conflict. He was also the cause of me actually cheering out loud – twice – whilst reading this book. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes when you read a particularly wonderful part in a novel, clapping, whooping and grinning from ear to ear, is almost compulsory. YHMAH is just one of those books for me. Luckily I wasn’t travelling on public transport at the time of reading.
There are numerous other brilliantly written characters in this book. Rachel’s three close friends, Caroline, Mindy and Ivor, were the type of chums every girl needs around her, particularly in a crisis. Non-judgmental and supportive, and in Mindy’s case, just a little off the wall –
“The Mindy paradox: sense and nonsense sharing a twin room – or even a bed, like Morecambe and not-so-Wise”
I love how descriptive the author is when introducing each character. I could picture so clearly pompous Simon, smug Matt and Lucy, ageing wannabe rocker Rhys, and particularly, fellow court reporter Gretton –
“He’s very blinky, as if daylight is a shock to him, somehow always reminding me of a ghostly, pink-gilled fish my dad once found lurking in the black sludge at the bottom of the garden pond”
All the characters in the story are so true to life, you can’t help but liken them to people that you know. I’ve heard talk that the book could be made into a film, and I so hope it happens. It would surely be a casting agents delight to assemble a group of actors to bring this story to the big screen. The author certainly provides plenty of vivid character detail, which is just another plus point to this brilliant book.
I won’t go into the story too much more as it just really needs to be read and enjoyed. I will say this though. As a Brit, I think this novel absolutely does us proud. To me, it’s like a love letter to the UK, showcasing all the things we do best here – unique skills such as poking fun at ourselves, talking ourselves down and of course, always making the best of awkward situations. The setting, characters and storyline are all spot on, but it’s Ms McFarlane’s prose, so full of warmth, heart and humour, that elevate this story from run of the mill chick-lit to genuinely brilliant, all time favourite read. I would encourage all my friends and followers of this blog to pick themselves up a copy and give this story a go. I would be so interested to hear back from overseas readers to see if they ‘get’ and love all the British humour it contains. I’m quite sure if you were a fan of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually or Bridget Jones, then you are already on board with our quirks and customs, and will therefore enjoy this book immensely.
“It’s pathetic, I knew I did from that first moment we met. It was…not love at first sight exactly, but – familiarity. Like: oh, hello, it’s you. It’s going to be you. Game over.”
It’s hard to believe this was Mhairi McFarlane’s debut novel. However, she’s proved it to be no first-time fluke by following it up with her equally fabulous, second stand-alone novel, Here’s Looking At You, which I am currently re-reading via audiobook and enjoying even more second time around. I can hardly wait for November and the release of her new book, It’s Not Me, It’s You. If it’s half as good as her first two novels, then I know I’m in for another absolute treat.