You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

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You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning, book reviewYou Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ is only Sarra Manning’s second novel and, as I had not read her first, I did not really know what to expect. The cover is slightly misleading, as, with only a pair of pink glossy lips on show, it made me think that the content was going to be lightweight and perhaps even a bit frivolous. But they do say that you should never judge a book by its cover and that is certainly the case with this one which was much more thought provoking and entertaining than I first expected.

Neve is the central character and the reader soon realises that she has major issues with her self esteem. She has embarked on a rigorous diet and exercise regime that has enabled her to lose over half her body weight having previously weighed about twenty five stone. However she still thinks that she is hideously fat and unattractive and yearns to fit into those elusive size ten clothes. She is also waiting for William, the love of her life to return from America after having been away for three years. She is convinced that they are destined to be together, especially after she has lost so much weight, but is worried that she has never had a proper relationship before. That is where Max comes in. He is very attractive but has a totally relaxed attitude towards relationships. He is the ideal boyfriend to practice on and Neve feels sure that, when William comes back, they will just be able to walk away from each other with no hearts broken! In fact he is perfect for what she describes as a ‘pancake’ relationship, as the first pancake is the one that you test before throwing it away.

What Neve doesn’t count on though is how well she and Max will get on and how much fun they will have. As Max is in publishing with a glamorous lifestyle, he introduces her to all sorts of people and takes her to fantastic events that she could never have dreamed of, especially as her work in archives is somewhat dull. Neve really starts enjoying herself and starts thinking about William less and less as Max takes up more of her thoughts. There is also the great sex (described in great detail at times) which is something she never expected, especially considering how she feels about her body. The question is whether, when the time comes, will she be able to turn her back on Max in favour of William, and how will they both feel about it? This is what kept me absorbed and engrossed throughout this thoroughly entertaining book.

“I really enjoyed reading ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ and I definitely recommend it.”

I liked the way that Sarra Manning explored the complexities of relationships in such a way that I could easily identify with the characters. Neve is one of the most naive women that you could ever expect to meet in a book. Her lack of experience means that most of the time she fails to see what is happening before her very eyes, especially as far as Max is concerned, and the situation is much more apparent to the reader than it is to her hapless self! Max is a thoroughly engaging character too and it becomes apparent very soon that he is much more thoughtful and deeper than the one is first led to believe. These two are surrounded by a whole host of characters that all contribute to the story in their own way.

Although ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love’ me is very light and easy to read, it is also quite heartbreaking at times. Neve’s feelings about her body and her failure to see it as anything less than hideous is so very sad and highlights what is a real issue for so many people. I felt that this element of the story was dealt with extremely sensitively and did not in any way make light of this intense problem. However, Sarra Manning does not dwell on this too much either, and the story is interspersed with many lighter and humorous moments too.

As far as I am concerned, ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ is a bit long with just over 550 pages. I generally prefer to read books that are about two thirds that length and I was a bit concerned that the story might have been padded out unnecessarily. However this was not the case and, with many sub plots interweaved, I would say that most pages were needed. I also read the last hundred pages in one go as by that point I was totally hooked.

I really enjoyed reading ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ and I definitely recommend it. It has also made me determined to read Sarra Manning’s first book, ‘Unsticky’, and to look out for more from her in the future.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning
Published by Transworld Publishers, paperback, Feb 2011
With thanks to Transworld for providing a review copy.

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You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
by Sarra Manning

One Comment on "You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me"

  1. Luci
    14/03/2011 at 20:27 Permalink

    I really liked this too, and it had the added bonus of being set quite near where I live. It’s her second novel for adults but she’s also written about 6 books for teenagers, I think. Apparently this book more than any of the others had some of her own experience – someone posted a link to the Telegraph online where she had an article about losing some weight and the effect that had.

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Written by kingfisher

My name is Jo and I have been married to Simon for nine years. We have two beautiful daughters – Rachel who is six and Natalie who is almost five and starting school in January. I also have two step children aged twenty one and seventeen so family life is never dull. I also manage to work three days for a local education authority where I support the teaching of literacy in primary schools. I love my job and it’s ideal for a book lover like me. In my spare time I run, dance and occasionally tread the boards with my local amateur dramatics group. My first love is reading though and you will never find me without a book on the go. My husband is also an avid reader and we are hoping to pass on our love of reading to our daughters. They certainly love their bedtime stories every night. Although I have and English degree and I am familiar with most of the classics, I generally read much lighter stuff these days. It’s mainly ‘chic lit’ but I also enjoy a good thriller or courtroom drama. I have so many favourite authors and this list tends to change regularly depending on what I am reading.

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