I received a copy of this book from the publisher.
About The Book
Two best friends. One missed chance. And a night that changes everything.
Eve, Justin, Susie and Ed have been friends since they were eighteen. Now in their 30s, the four are still as close as ever, Thursday pub quiz night is still sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed.
Maybe Eve should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed sometimes thinks about it too.
Then one night, in an instant, all their lives change forever. And, as Eve learns she didn’t know her friends as well as she thought, she also discovers she isn’t the only person keeping secrets…
Last Night, the latest book by Mhairi McFarlane is another wonderful slice of friendship, love, humour and heart. I am such a huge fan of McFarlane’s writing; nobody else can make me snort with laughter one minute and cry the next, and have been avidly waiting her new novel. The problem is, like a packet of chocolate digestives, I can’t take it slowly and end up devouring it all in almost one sitting. Fortunately reading is far better for the waistline than a packet of biscuits.
Our protagonist is Eve, who works in a job she doesn’t particularly like writing headlines for clickbait adverts about such glamorous things as spicy hotdogs. She’s been friends with Susie, Ed and Justin since they were teenagers and the foursome are a tight knit group. Their banter is full of in-jokes and easy camaraderie and their weekly pub quiz trip is an occasion none of them miss. Ed’s been with his girlfriend, Hester, since University and despite her knowing the other members of the group for more than a decade she hasn’t quite gelled with them, which could have something to do with Eve harbouring pretty huge feelings for Ed. When something catastrophic happens the group is rocked and it sets in motion a chain of events which cause Eve to dig deep.
I loved how accurately friendships are portrayed, particularly long term friendships like Eve and her friends. Friendships where a single look at a friend over the rim of your glass whilst taking a sip of a drink can communicate far more than thousands of words could. The heaps of shared history, knowledge and understanding leaps from the page and I felt like I was there in the pub being utterly rubbish at the quiz, arching an eyebrow at the uber competitive team at the next table.
I love McFarlane’s books for the wit and zingy writing, and Last Night is chock full of sardonic comments and observational humour, but it also has a dark side. The rug was well and truly pulled out from under my feet and a bomb was thrown into the narrative and the book didn’t go quite the way I thought it would. This is the joy of a book by this writer, her books are never just boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl and they live together happily ever after. Yes, they contain romance but really, they are about far more than that. Previous novels have examined gaslighting and racism, but Last Night examines grief. A grief which is utterly consuming and devastating.
In this book we’re taken through the whole gamut of emotions; shock, horror, devastation, loss and disbelief. Eve is such a wonderful character; smart, funny, quick as whip and absolutely pole-axed by grief and betrayal. She is compellingly written, utterly likeable and one of my favourite protagonists to date (which is saying something). Through her we come to see the reality of grief and of learning to live with it. McFarlane balances the darkness of grief with shots of humour to cast some light, and it is written with a deftness of touch and understanding. It examines some pretty major life lessons, particularly about understanding your worth and backing yourself whilst touching on some very difficult subjects indeed.
She really does get better and better. So much so that it is difficult to review Last Night without dropping spoilers here, there and everywhere. If you’ve read a McFarlane book before then you’ll know that you’re getting to get something special, that there’s going to be nuanced, fully believable characters, a complete shit of a man who you’re going to really, really, fancy and lots and lots of heart.
For me though, the romantic relationship is almost an incidental, because this book is about the romance of friendship. Of the deep love you have for your friends. The complete and utter joy of an in-joke which can make you both corpse laughing. Of a short-hand that only exists between people who have shared lives and questionable haircuts. And of sitting a pub with your pals, being rubbish at a quiz and wondering whose round it is next. Perfection.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to HarperCollins for supplying me with a copy of the book via Netgalley.