Review of Between Us by Mhairi McFarlane @MhairiMcF @avonbooks

Between Us is the gaslighting book du jour but in Mhairi McFarlane’s hands it achieves something more.

Blurb: International bestseller Mhairi McFarlane delivers a witty, clever, emotional new novel about a woman whose life unravels spectacularly after her screenwriter boyfriend uses their relationship as inspiration for his new television show.

When Roisin and Joe join their friends for a weekend at a country house, it’s a triple celebration—a birthday, an engagement, and the launch of Joe’s shiny new TV show. But as the weekend unfolds, tensions come to light in the group and Roisin begins to question her own relationship. And as they watch the first episode of Joe’s drama, she realizes that the private things she told him—which should have stayed between them—are right there on the screen.

With her friend group in chaos and her messy love life on display for the whole world to see, Roisin returns home to avoid the unwanted attention and help run her family’s pub. But drama still follows, in the form of her dysfunctional family and the looming question: what other parts of her now-ex’s show are inspired by real events? Lies? Infidelity? Every week, as a new episode airs, she wonders what other secrets will be revealed.

Yet the most unexpected twist of all is an old friend, who is suddenly there for Roisin in ways she never knew she needed…

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In the past year, the relationship between long-term partners, Roisin and Joe, has become colder and more distant as he immerses himself in his booming screenwriting career. With the first show in his second series about to air, they join their best friends of ten years for its airing as well as to celebrate a birthday and engagement. But the reunion is rocky with old hurts surfacing and animosities blooming. As the ensemble gathers to watch the show’s premiere, Roisin realizes that what she is seeing on the screen is not fiction with at least one scene something she shared with Joe in private, which makes her wonder: just what else might not be fiction? in Mhairi McFarlane’s Between Us.

I may never have supported the breakup of a book couple more than I actively rooted for the demise of Roisin and Joe’s relationship. Unfortunately the fact that the relationship dragged on as long as it did was one of the novel’s weaknesses. While I can understand that a ten-year relationship shouldn’t be tossed aside nonchalantly, I wondered why a character like Roisin, with her history with her parents and their swinger life-style that incorporated infidelity and distrust, would so easily trust Joe and that certain behaviors were never suspect. However, Roisin was searching so hard for relationships of all kinds that could be her own–just hers–, people she could count on, that she seemingly turned a blind-eye when actions didn’t jibe. That is, until the proverbial excrement hit the fan and she couldn’t any longer, which in itself drove me a little crazy as she did a complete about-face almost ruining the opportunity for something real from someone honest.

As for the dynamics of the group of friends, these are not like Peter’s Friends, as one character laughingly suggests. (Peter’s Friends is a brilliantly acted and witty movie about a group of friends who get together for a big announcement that none expect; highly recommended.) Considering McFarlane’s talents, I almost wish that she had given this group a stronger opportunity to shine, but none of the characters are really dynamic enough/charismatic enough or relatable enough, except for Roisin who is relatable.

While Between Us isn’t one of my favorite McFarlane’s, it still incorporates her trademark conversationally erudite and witty prose that make it well worth reading as well as completely engaging.

Many thanks to Avon and Netgalley for a copy.

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