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Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

on April 30, 2019

Don’t You Forget About Me
Mhairi McFarlane
Harper Collins
2019, 432p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

It began with four words.

‘I love your laugh. x’

But that was twelve years ago. It really began the day Georgina was fired from The Worst Restaurant in Sheffield (© Tripadvisor) and found The Worst Boyfriend in the World (© Georgina’s best friends) in bed with someone else.

So when her new boss, Lucas McCarthy, turns out to be the boy who wrote those words to her all that time ago, it feels like the start of something.

The only problem? He doesn’t seem to remember Georgina – at all…

Mhairi McFarlane has been one of my favourite discoveries in recent years. Her 2015 novel Who’s That Girl was one of my favourites for the year and when I read her backlist, It’s Not Me, It’s You became one of my all time favourite books. I was very much looking forward to a new book from her but the release came at a time when I was quite busy and I actually forgot about it for a month or so. I finally snatched it up and there was a lazy Sunday recently when I spent most of the day in bed, devouring this.

It starts off with a lot of humour – Georgina is about thirty and works at a restaurant in Sheffield that is notorious for being rubbish. It’s credited as the worst in the city and regularly gets blasted on sites like Trip Advisor. Georgina has had a string of jobs like this and seems somewhat content to live her life like she’s in her early 20s rather than her 30s and even though she has dreams of being a writer, she hasn’t really done much to pursue them. Georgina is fired from her job and her sister gets her some work through her husband, begging Georgina not to stuff this up and risk making her husband look bad for recommending someone unreliable. Georgina takes the work and is offered a full time job at a pub, but one of her new bosses turns out to be her first love from high school, a boy named Lucas.

Lucas is now all grown up – and he’s different to the boy Georgina remembers from high school but then again, she is different too. Despite the fact that he doesn’t appear to remember Georgina and that he’s somewhat hostile or reluctant to interact at first, the chemistry they had as teenagers is still there. But the dissolution of their severed teenage relationship hangs over them until one day, Georgina can resist no longer, which is the catalyst to her confronting that past and what exactly happened that night.

So like I said, this starts out kind of light and humorous. The scenes in the restaurant where Georgina works are really engaging and kick off the book in great fashion. I became really invested in the teenage relationship between Georgina and Lucas – this is portrayed really well, the brief dips back into that high school time giving me such flashbacks of social hierarchies and the way social and peer pressure works for some people and how powerful it can be. That desire to be accepted by the people deemed worthy, sometimes at the cost of everything else. There’s also a lot of exploration of Georgina’s family and the way they treat her – I think there’s an assumption that she’s wasting her life in these go no-where jobs and they tend to patronise her, treat her like she’s a bit simple and needs them to run her life for her. It’s very frustrating, the way they infantilise her and I wanted so much for her to stand up for herself and show them that she was capable of determining her own destiny and happy to do it. The story with her ex-boyfriend takes gaslighting to scary new levels and it’s something that I’m seeing quite a bit in fiction at the moment, portrayals of people who emotionally manipulate and bully in those ways that make the victim feel that everything is their fault, their mistake, that things didn’t occur the way in which they remember.

This book got way darker than what I was expecting and you can feel it building for a while. The readers are led to believe one thing for a large portion of the book, although it’s never touched on why she would have done something like that. Towards the end of the novel, Georgina seems to gather her confidence to address that night and she does so heartbreakingly, in public. The atmosphere around it builds for a while and as she begins her speech, the horror of what she is about to discuss begins to seep in. Her complete honesty, her questions of her own motivations and actions, the justification, the reasoning she does with herself internally, the heartbreaking simplicity of it all rang so true. It was someone laying themselves open to be completely vulnerable and it was another characters chance to do some serious self reflection and examine their own values and actions and how they’d perhaps been conditioned to think a certain way too. What would’ve happened if they’d just asked a simple question? It’s entirely likely everything would’ve completely changed.

This felt like such an amazing character arc, a study in gaining strength, independence and control. These books make me laugh so much but can also make me cry in solidarity with a character. I adore the way Mhairi McFarlane writes romance although that is not really the focus here. But the chemistry between Lucas and Georgina remains throughout and their connection is a strong part of the novel. This however, is Georgina’s journey and it’s about so much more than romance.


Book #57 of 2019

One response to “Review: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

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