Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra
The new novel from the bestselling author of You Had Me At Hello. What if the last person you wanted to see was the person you needed? After the runaway success of You Had Me At Hello, Mhairi McFarlane is back with a new cast of characters in her second book, Here’s Looking At You. In essence it’s an ugly duckling tale. Our heroine Aureliana returns to school after fifteen years for a reunion. School doesn’t hold happy memories for her, as being a roly poly Italian (known as the Italian Galleon), and always armed with a Tupperware full of pungent Mediterranean food, she was bullied incessantly throughout her years there. Now in her 30s, Aureliana wants to put the past behind her once and for all and face up to the bullies who made her life hell. But she is much-changed from the girl she once was – all curves and because I’m worth it hair – and no one recognises her when she arrives. Losing her bottle, she backs out on her plan for revenge and slinks off, hoping never to be reminded of her years at school again. But fate gets in the way, and after the reunion her path keeps crossing with James – major hunk and Aureliana’s major crush back at school. But alas, as a cronie to the bullies, Aureliana to this day believes that his beautiful exterior hides an ugly interior. As they continue to cross paths a love/hate relationship ensues until eventually something shifts, and they both start to discover what the person underneath is really like…Full of Mhairi’s trademark laugh out loud humour, Here’s Looking At You is a novel about facing your demons and being happy with who you really are.
This is the first book I have read by Mhairi McFarlane. It took a bit to get used to the British humour, but once that was accomplished, I quite enjoyed the book.
I loved the section where the author is describing Anna’s (aka Aureliana) love of history and her chosen profession. I became totally engaged in the description and was excited for Anna about the topic at that moment as well. The description of Operation Theodora was delightful; I felt Anna’s enthusiasm for the project. Too bad I did not find that intensity throughout the entire book, which was a tad bit disappointing. However, the intensity does come back later in the book, for which I am forever grateful.
I thoroughly enjoyed Anna’s bantering with Neil, her one-time only blind date. His insistence that she is playing hard to get as a result of previous e-mail back and forth communication and her rebuttal is priceless:
Speechless. It’s obviously risky to have eyes and hair around men these days. I should’ve taken care to be bald and blind. It’s a definite NO to a second date, thanks. If you continue to insist that I’m playing the long game then by all means, pencil some action in for the afterlife. Hell, make it an orgy – invite Marilyn Monroe, Caligula and Rod Hull. Good luck in all your future endeavours!”
And let us not forget the final text with only pages to go in the book – which initially Anna hopes and preys it is from James but finds it is from Neil:
“Anna! Long time no talk! I’ve notice you’ve gone quiet on the dating front. Ready for a second attempt at chasing that incredibly elusive ‘spark’ yet? 🙂 Neil x “
In the prologue, we get the run down on what happened in high school and how the cast of characters interact. As I read through these pages, my heart broke for Aureliana. I was so getting annoyed at those boys!!!! And when the reader is reintroduced to Aureliana in the first chapter, we come to understand her name change to Anna.
Now skip ahead….Anna is now working at OCL (university) on a new project at work ….the exhibition of Theodora at the British museum. And who is a project lead for the museum to market the exhibition but none other than James, the lead in the last nasty event in high school. Predictable twist but told in a very compelling manner.
For a good portion of the book, Anna and James slowly develop a working friendship, which is built on a lie as James does not remember that fateful high school evening and Anna most assuredly does. Anna begins to have feelings again for James (we all saw that coming….). But I felt that the relationship was developed in a respectful manner, especially since James was still married (albeit separated).
As I continued to read at around the half way mark, I note to myself that I am fully vested in the story and do not want to put it down! The serious moments were especially well written. I was fully immersed in the emotional aspect of the topic and felt the pain of Anna and all those involved in the “high school hazing” and aftermath of the event.
The following passage certainly made me smile –
“It’s time you accepted that they’re the ones who have something to be ashamed of. Not you. Michelle said.”
It was about time that someone kicked Anna in the butt a bit and made her realize that the past events were not her fault; she was the victim after all.
The whole sub story of Aggy’s wedding brought comic relief to the story. As a younger sister to Anna, I loved her “fluffiness”. Yet when we get to know the character, Aggy was a true lifeline for Anna and her turbulent high school experience.
Overall, a very good book if you are looking for love and romance, forgiveness and a bit of laughter. Once you get used to the British colloquialisms, the reading is easy and compelling.