The best stories are often the most simple- this theory is proven in You Had Me at Hello by the wonderfully funny Mhairi McFarlane. It’s a tale of girl meets boy that spans over ten years and tells one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever read. It’s witty, sharp, funny and breathtaking in all the right places. Trust me, you need this book in your life!
After Ben and Rachel meet at university, an instant connection is formed. After he gently mocks her less-than-perfect student ID photo, a spark ignites and never really goes out. It’s obvious to everyone (except them, of course) that they’re meant to be together. Throughout the course of the book, Fate attempts to throw them together, missing a little each time.
Years after the carefree hedonism of university, Rachel finds herself in a domestic bliss of sorts with Rhys.
However, an argument over whether or not to have Macclesfield Elvis at their wedding reception brings all their past insecurities racing to the surface and Rachel finds herself in the strange world of Singlesville.
And that’s just when Ben comes back into her life. In a “chance” meeting at the library, engineered by Rachel herself, their worlds collide and the spark between them is ignited once more. It seems as though they were meant to find each other again… Until he reveals he’s married! Once again the path of true love veers spectacularly off-course and the reader is left wondering whether their paths will ever converge. Both of them have changed since their university days but it seems as though they’ve grown with each other. I personally loved the way they slipped back into their friendship with each other- almost as if they’d never left one another.
You Had Me at Hello is a sparky, funny debut about first loves, true loves and misunderstandings. It explores all different kinds of love: the kind that never goes away (Ben/Rachel), the kind that grows from acceptance (Caroline) and the kind that needs a shove in the right direction (Mindy/Ivor). The characters come alive on the page and the plot is engaging, ensnaring the reader from page one. Rachel’s friends are a triumph, from pragmatic Caroline to ditzy Mindy and witty, sarcastic Ivor. They each influence her path through the story, pushing and pulling her towards Ben in equal measure. Nasty antagonists Olivia and Simon provide excellent obstacles throughout the story, though I felt Olivia could’ve had a little more venom in places. She is an understated villain of the piece. The reader is acutely aware of her desire to measure up to the famous love of her husbands life. At times I felt sorry for her but her actions ultimately reveal her true nature.
I would compare this book to a huge helping of chocolate sponge and custard. It is a long book with lots happening in it, which can at times feel like you’ll never reach the end, but the end result is a beautifully woven story that reaches a hugely satisfying conclusion. I loved the witty, sharp dialogue, the strong and memorable characters and the underlying themes within the book. If you haven’t read it already, I’d highly recommend it!