Neve Slater has been pining for handsome intellectual William since she first met him studying English literature at university. For the last three years, William has been living in LA, and during that time, Neve has been determinedly ‘improving’ herself, in the hope that, on his return, William will fall instantly into her arms, and the pair can live happily ever after. There’s just one problem: interminably single Neve has never had a boyfriend before, and has no idea how to handle men, relationships, or, most worryingly (to her) sex. Determined not to appear inexperienced for William, she takes her sister Celia’s advice, and allows herself to be set-up on a date with handsome playboy Max. Surely nothing could complicate that plan…right?
Neve’s book-filled flat, combined with her self-deprecating humour and lack of body confidence, made for one very relatable protagonist, at least in my case. I instantly warmed to her, and fully sympathised with her various challenges and anxieties. And, of course, I always love a bookish heroine, and so loved reading about Neve’s job in a literary archive, and her passion and enthusiasm for the newly discovered papers of a forgotten twentieth-century female poet. Indeed, I read this as a very literary novel, and one which posed interesting questions about the way we value different kinds of books. Neve is initially rather snobbish, for example, when she learns that Max ghost-writes a series of trashy chick-lit novels, but as their personal relationship develops, so her attitude to his work nuances. Itself clearly positioned as a chick lit novel, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is therefore intriguingly self-reflective in this aspect, which I very much enjoyed. It’s also funny, heart-warming, and romantic. Those who enjoyed this might also like to try Mhairi McFarlane’s Here’s Looking at You, another excellent literary chick lit novel.