You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

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You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A witty and engaging read about what happens when the one that got away....comes back. Set in modern Manchester this is a fresh neon spark among the normally more muted chick lit palette.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: November 2012
Publisher: Avon
ISBN: 978-0007488056

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Shortlisted for Romantic Novelists Association Award 2013: Contemporary Romantic Novel

Who hasn’t got a ‘one that got away’? Or maybe several? Rachel and Ben meet at university in Manchester, but she’s got a boyfriend back home, and he’s a bit of a ladies man, so rather than settle down together (which is arguably what at least one of them thinks they should have done), they pad through a few years as fellow students and then go their separate ways. After a while Rachel heads back to Manchester and sometime well after that, Ben finds himself back up north too. They bump into each other and it’s like nothing has changed. Except everything has changed. Rachel is hot off a broken engagement, while Ben is married to a hotshot lawyer from Lan-dan. Will their past stay in the past, and do they want it to? Told from Rachel’s point of view, this is a story that sets out to answer those and other questions.

I won’t deny that part of my score for this one comes from the fact I loved reading a book set in Manchester than bore an actual resemblance to the Manchester I’ve lived in for most of the last 12 years. Aside from a snide comment about my certain part of town, and an odd trip to Platt Fields for lunch (really? From the city centre? Who would do that?) this was a book that rang true. Pubs like the Castle and the Woodstock not only exist but are places I’ve been, and you feel a little bit of an insider seeing them mentioned, like when they show your home town on the news or film a sitcom in the office block next door.

I also really enjoyed the tales of Rachel’s work as a court reporter, slightly more specialised than the generic journalist so many lead characters seem to find themselves being (all too often as a result of the author’s previous/current career path). It not only added an extra dimension to the story but also worked really well to link together different things, like Ben’s mate Simon's involvement in everything.

This is a really funny book. It’s not one of those accidentally amusing titles but actually sets out to be funny. And it succeeds. It’s chick-lit but not your usual hearts and flowers kind, so it makes a refreshing change to see how else the genre can be done. The way the book flits back and forth from student days to the present, and the general relationship Rachel and Ben have is a bit reminiscent of One Day by David Nicholls but really they’re not that similar… and You had me… is a lot funnier.

This is a book with a touch of reality to it. It may be that not everything works out in the end, but that’s life, and the way the story wanders on shows a natural feeling of progression, both to the ploy and to the characters as people. It’s slick and easy to read, and I wanted to keep going with it to find out what happened to the characters next in the present, and what had happened to them next in the past.


Thanks go to the publishers for supplying this book.

Continuing on the theme of my adopted hometown, we have Life with Sir Alex: A Fan's Story of Ferguson's 25 Years at Manchester United by Will Tidey and Mr Manchester and the Factory Girl: The Story of Tony and Lindsay Wilson by Lindsay Reade, both scoring highly with Bookbag reviewers. You might also enjoy Claudia by Anthony Trevelyan.

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Buy You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane at


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