Published by Harper Fiction on 6th November 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Humour, Romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Buy on Amazon US • Buy on Amazon UK
Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong.
When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault.
When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault.
And when he wanted her back life nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…
From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.
Reviewed by Kay
*I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley*
For me, Mhairi McFarlane is the number one rom-com author. Her previous books, Here’s Looking At You and my all time favourite, You Had Me At Hello, feature characters written with the perfect blend of humour, heartbreak, wit, vulnerability and honesty that they elevate Ms McFarlane’s work to a level all her own. When I got the opportunity to read an early ARC via NetGalley of her new book, It’s Not Me It’s You, I positively squealed with excitement, and let me tell you, that joyful anticipation was not misplaced. Ms McFarlane has written another gem of a book here.
The story centres around Delia, a 33-year-old, red-headed Geordie who has passion for bright, figure flattering retro dresses, great shoes and flicks of black liquid eyeliner. At the start of the story, we find Delia living…comfortably. She is secure and comfortable in her relationship with Paul, her bar owning fella of the last ten years. She has fallen into a comfortable, if somewhat uninspiring, job as a press officer at the local council. She is content within herself. Then one mis-sent text message changes it all and flips the way Delia looks at her life on its head.
Oh how my heart went out to Delia when she read that text message! I’m sure we’ve all sent or received a message which has ended up going to the subject of the text rather than the intended recipient, but I doubt any of our mishaps have caused the utter devastation felt by Delia when she found out her rock of a guy had in fact been cheating on her with a younger model. I loved the “is this really happening to me?” slant on Delia’s narrative in the immediate aftermath. It’s such a great observation to have Delia feeling “what should I be doing now? How should I be reacting?” when trying to work out if she should have stormed off, started shouting, asked more or less question etc. When life as you know it tips upside down in a heartbeat, it’s little wonder that nothing seems real and you honestly don’t know immediately how to respond. Like so many situations in life, we all think we know how we’d react to certain revelations, but until you are actually in the persons shoes, you really have no idea how you’d cope.
I found the parts of the book when Delia stood back and really looked at the nuts and bolts of her life, and in particular her relationship with Paul, to be the most poignant. How many of us have either been in a relationship ourselves or have observed friends, where the dynamic is just slightly off, where one person is bending just that little bit more, making more in the way of compromises, is putting in just that bit more effort to make it work? Is that really how love should be? When you hold up a relationship spirit level to your life, shouldn’t the bubble be more central? When Delia is really honest with herself and acknowledges that maybe she loved Paul more than he loved her, I felt both sadness for her that she had kidded herself into not facing that for so long, and hope that now the realisation was staring her in the face, she would move on and find someone more willing to go all out for her love.
“You know something I never admitted to myself, until now? I made it easy for Paul when we got together. I knew that if it was hard, he might not have bothered.”
“Maybe Paul being half-hearted is why I wanted him so badly. How messed-up is that? I knew I had to strive for him. I was so demented about winning him over, I never considered if I wanted to be with someone who needed convincing.”
As always with Mhairi McFarlane books, there is a fantastic cast of brilliantly observed supporting characters in this story, none of which come across as flat or one-dimensional. In fact, it feels like there is almost a theme to this book of looking below the surface, digging deeper, not taking people on face value and being surprised at what you find.
In Adam, Mhairi gives us a smart, sexy guy that comes with his own mysterious edge. Initially portrayed as Delia’s foe, as the story unfolds and more of his character is shown, the readers opinion of him is bound to change. Sometimes a posh, sarky exterior hides a warm, loyal heart and that’s what you get with Adam. Friendships play a big part in this story, in all sorts of guises and with that in mind, another of my favourite characters is the elusive Peshwari Naan. Scourge of the council hierarchy, with his cutting online comments and smart wit, PN is actually fleshed out to be a very different character to what I was expecting, but that just shows great writing and somehow makes him all the more real and interesting. Best friend Emma, so petite and girlie with her baby like voice, but who is in fact a formidable lawyer who excels in her work, is just the kind of loyal, supportive best mate we all need in life. Another beautifully written character is Delia’s brother Ralph, so honest and open with his views on life that he has an almost childlike quality, but as we all know, sometimes just speaking the simple truth can pack the biggest punch.
“There was something to be said for having someone who would, with no spite whatsoever, give you the unvarnished truth.”
Brilliant comic observation brings even the smallest bit part character to life. The hereditary sexist journalist Stephen, just a tiny passing character, is still so wonderfully written that you can immediately picture him in his ill-fitting suits, and liken him to chumps you have met in real life. I’m also sure anyone who has worked for any length of time in an office has also come across their own version of Ann. Disapproving looks, snippy comments and a bitter attitude make up this all too familiar office dragon
“Ann’s policing of the office fridge was frightening. Despite being post-menopausal, she decanted her semi skimmed into a plain container and labelled it ‘BREAST MILK’ to ward off thieves.”
This story, like all of Ms McFarlane’s work, gives you something extra with the way it is written. Lots of Rom Coms or Chick Lit if you like, can be a little insipid, but this author has a special gift and a magical way with words that makes every scene in the book just so vivid and real. Like a great artist whose paintings throw up a hidden aspect each time you look at them, a Mhairi McFarlane book has the ability to make you gasp, sob, cheer and laughing out loud each and every time you read them.
“Revenge. An eye for an eye. I’m a big Old Testament man. People have lost sight of how much sense it makes.”
“Maybe because everyone has taken each others’ eyes.”
The scenes with Parsnip, the love letter and the restaurant critic had me crying, swooning, punching the air with joy and giggling like a fool. I replayed in my head the “Downton Flabby” line again and again, and sniggered to myself every time. Just wonderful.
“I bet Van Gogh’s Sunflowers was speedier than your red-wine-braised Dorset snails. What are you doing, asking them to make their own way here?”
For all the fabulous supporting characters It’s Not Me It’s You contains, this is still very much Delia’s book. The author has created in Delia a main character that you cannot help but love. Warm, real, funny, vulnerable but most of all, utterly relatable, as readers, we root for Delia. We feel her pain and hurt at Paul’s betrayal. We feel her apprehension at the prospect of having to start over in the dating game and all that may now entail.
“A hypothetical bum-sex bully online over-sharer. I see why you’re concerned. This entirely made-up man you’ve had imaginary sex with is quite the non-existent dick.”
But most of all, we root for Delia to make the right choice for her, be it the familiar, comfortable choice or the brave, more Fox like option. Delia’s long abandoned cartoon series and The Fox character, is such a genius way to sum up how sometimes life just doesn’t go the way we intended. We all have the ability to be masters of our own destiny, but do we always possess the bravery to follow our dreams? Maybe we all need a Ralph in our lives who will encourage us with a “so what happens next?” question. Maybe we all need to give love and feel loved in equal measure to ensure we have the confidence to take a chance. That is the overriding feeling I took away from Delia’s story.
So to sum up, it’s my opinion that with It’s Not Me It’s You, Mhairi McFarlane has another huge hit under her belt. I cannot wait to get my hands on the actual hardback copy of the book to see The Fox brought to life with the illustrations the book will contain, which is just another lovely, original touch that makes this tale all the more special. If you are looking for a story with smart, witty prose and great relatable characters, that although funny and dramatic, still contains enough warmth and heart to really make you stop and think, this book is for you.
Right now, there is an advert on TV showing a previously lazy cat dashing around, finding itself in all sorts of dramatic situations, under the tag line “be more dog” Well, after finishing this book, I feel we should all live by the motto “be more fox”. It seems a good mantra to have in life.
Reviewed by Joanne
*I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley*
^^What Kay said!^^
Joking aside, I think Kay summed it up perfectly, although there were a few areas that did drag out for me, one of which was Delia’s back and forth from Newcastle to London. I was starting to feel that it was getting a bit tedious and was tempted to start skimming those parts.
It’s two years since I read Mhairi’s first book, ‘You Had Me At Hello’, and it is one of my favourite books. I loved how real the characters were, how the story developed and how it ended, so I was looking forward to getting started on this book.
I fell hook, line and sinker into this story right from the first chapter, when it became clear that the book is set in Newcastle. Being a northern lass, I always get a tad excited when I’m reading a book that is set in my region. It makes the story all the more real when I can ‘see’ the streets and areas of town that are mentioned, and ‘hear’ the characters speaking in my accent!<
I loved Delia, she had the blinkers on in her life really, until one huge slip of concentration on her boyfriends part opens her eyes up to what’s been going on, and it gives her the jump-start that she needs. I didn’t envy her the situation she found herself in, but I did like the way she handled things.
Mhairi McFarlane introduces a lot of characters in this story, some I liked, and some I wasn’t too keen on. I LOVED Ralph, Delia’s brother. He was very much like my son, he just says it as he sees it. No hidden agenda, no intent to hurt, just calling it as it is, and sometimes that’s what we need to help us see the bigger picture. He said what he needed to say and that was that, back to his computer games as if nothing else mattered in the world. Oh to live like that, carefree with no worries!
I felt for Delia when she had to make a decision about her relationship with Paul. He did seem very apologetic and tried hard to prove that he loved her. There’s always that doubt though – is he genuinely sorry? or sorry because he’s been caught? It was a hard choice – stick with what you know, or take a chance. When your biological clock is ticking and you don’t have age on your side, it may seem like there is only on option, but will it be the right one in the long run?<
I wasn’t too sure about Adam to begin with, but I must admit that he grew on me as the book went on, and I was rooting for him towards the end. I can’t let Kurt escape without a mention. Kurt is Delia’s boss in her new London job and well, let’s just say he was something else! If you’ve seen Anchorman 2, you’ll know what I mean when I say Kench Allenby is who I imagined whenever Kurt opened his mouth! (you can see him on YouTube here 😉 )
Mhairi McFarlane really knows how to pull at your emotions. I laughed, I cried, I seethed and I found myself on the edge of my seat holding my breath on more than one occasion too. I did enjoy this book, but I felt it was a touch too long, and I much prefer the first person narration as used in You Had Me At Hello, rather than the third person narration in this book. That being said, I have ‘Here’s Looking At You’ waiting for me on my reading list, and I will be ready with the 1-click button, waiting for her next book!