Book reviews

The Man I Never Met by Elle Cook

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I actually read this book relatively late at night and I can thank this book and a heavy thunderstorm for breaking a brief but annoying reader’s block.

This is a book that I would definitely refer to as a cry-book. There were moments when I could feel the tears welling up as I swiftly moved to the next paragraph. The characters were brilliantly formed, and relatable and I can honestly say that I would love to have a friend like Hannah. Sure, she’s not the girl who goes to all the parties, but the things she enjoyed, the quiz nights, the regular meals with her friends – all the things that George seemed to look upon with disdain – were the sort of thing I enjoy. There is comfort in routine.

And to think that it all started with a wrong number!

Two lives are about to be changed by one phone call…

When Davey misdials Hannah’s number, at first they think nothing of it.

After all, Davey lives in Texas and Hannah lives in London.

But when Davey gets a job in London, their paths are sure to cross. As messaging turns to video calling, this feels like the start of something.

Weeks later, Hannah is waiting for Davey at the airport, but he never walks into Arrivals.

When Hannah finds out why, her world is turned on its head. And with their future so uncertain, each must pick up the pieces of their lives.

Will fate intervene once more to bring them together? Or will Davey always be the man that Hannah never met?

Hannah is not great at relationships, but she has some great examples, her parents are happy, her best friend Matilda is with a man who couldn’t be more perfect for her, and even her elderly landlady and neighbour Joan is finding a little bit of fun with adult sleepovers.

So when she finds a connection with her mystery caller, Davey, and they start to make friends, it’s devastating when life gets in the way.

Of course, you have to move on, and she does her best, getting involved with a gym junkie, George who couldn’t be less than right for her if she went looking for her ideal man in a lesbian bar.

I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading the book. I had read the blurb and it was exciting enough that I just had to read the rest of the book. I enjoyed it but there were parts that felt a little slower than others. As the blurb (and the title to a degree) make it clear that Davey and Hannah don’t get the chance to meet, I did feel that it took a little too long to get to that particular portion of the story.

There were moments in the book where I thought I would cry. I could feel Hannah’s heartbreak through the screen as I read. 

Despite the fact I knew it was coming (and as I have said because I knew it was coming I was sort of anxious for it to happen) when Davey doesn’t show up at the airport and she leaves with that sinking feeling in her stomach, that moment of abandonment so close to the surface, I felt angry with him. Because of the nature of the story, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a case of ‘I decided not to come’ but in that instant, I just didn’t understand it. I felt anger on her behalf.

And then the phone rings and the heartbreak (for the reader, and for Hannah) begins.

This is the moment where the story splits in two, where we get the life that is moving on, albeit reluctantly and slowly, and the life that is sitting stagnant. 

While Hannah struggles to move on, every moment wishing that she could offer Davey more support, be his person, but he doesn’t want her.

I have never been in a romantic relationship with someone who was sick, but I have watched as close family members suffered and pushed people away in some twisted effort to protect them from pain. And it doesn’t work.

Davey is understandably messed up. One minute he is the healthy good looking ‘Hemsworth-esque’ Cornwall Texan and the next he is losing his hair, gaining weight, losing the identity he has spent his whole life developing. And he’s understandably resentful.

That moment when he pushes Hannah away for good, my heart cracked just a little.

I don’t do spoilers, I want people to read this, but I will say these few things…

This is not a tome on Cancer Awareness, but if it gets you to check your health then good, because you should.

Also, I wanted to like George, I really did. But that scene where he tells her that he only asked her to do one thing ‘go on the pill’ despite the fact that she made it clear that it made her ill, was the point where I personally would have kicked him off the chair and guided him none-too-gently to the front door. In the beginning, he was exactly what Hannah needed to distract her from everything she had no control over, but then he wasn’t! 

Hannah has a wonderful, small and tight-knit group of friends, the sort every person should have. They are there for her no matter what. And I love Joan’s ‘adult sleepovers’, her mischief and her scoring of coffee on a weekend morning.

A Room with a View is one of my favourite films, so it was great to see it used as a device in the book. However, I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback that Hannah hadn’t read the book before despite the film being one that she watched virtually with Davey and physically with a less attentive George (for me another sign he was not right for her!). 

My takeaway from this? Read it, enjoy it, savour it. A wonderful, heartbreaking tearjerker of a read that I was able to finish in one sitting.

4-star rating

This book is released on 27th October 2022

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