Title: Here’s Looking at You
Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Chick-Lit
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 recognizes 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 crony 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 humor, Here’s Looking At You is a novel about facing your demons and being happy with who you really are.
“He’d watched her working the room, men staring in rapt fascination with their index fingers placed on their lips as she spoke, doing academic clever person rapid nodding. He couldn’t help but think oh, bless you Anna, you think they’re all gravitating towards you because of your key research role. But no. It’s the rack.”
I could feel it coming on shortly after I started reading. This was going to be one of those rare wickedly funny books that I was going to rave about for some time. Despite the total lack of smut, steam, or sizzle, (which seems to be a minimal requirement in most of the romance novels that I like to read) I totally loved it – what a treat! I did struggle a bit with the British spellings and cultural references and vernacular, which is why I am so glad I read an electronic version of the book so I could use the automatic dictionary and Wikipedia. I have learned many phrases and words I had never heard before, very fun words too, I might add. My personal vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds. I feel so much smarter and snappier for having read this mischievously witty book. I now know that “beetling about” means moving around in a hurry; and being “near the knuckle” means something risqué – I really like knowing that one and plan to use it soon. Ms. McFarlane is exceedingly gifted in flawlessly describing scenes in such a humorous and colorful manner. I practically had a movie reel running in my head with a smooth and effortless flow, never missing a beat. She is also sharply insightful in depicting the emotional aspects and inner musings of her characters. Her writing is crisp, witty, and indelible. I laughed aloud, and also had quite an ugly cry. Having been a victim of intense bullying in high school myself by a right rat bastard and his small-town inbred cronies, I keenly felt the main character’s anguish and despair as she was forced to recount that period of her life. High school hell is nearly 40 years out for me, yet Ms. McFarlane’s writing is so precise, she brought back the echo as if it were a recent occurrence. I will definitely be watching for more of this gifted talent.