I’ll be honest, I was dubious about “a romance told in reverse”.
It was a bit much for my little brain to comprehend before I started the book. I couldn’t quite imagine how that could possibly work.
Still, I have been following Hazel Hayes on Instagram for a while now and there was no doubt in my mind that she would be capable of writing a spectacular book, so despite my lack of understanding, I bought it.
It took me a little while to pick it up – like I said, I had my doubts about how a story in reverse would be told. But I did pick it up, and I didn’t put it down until I had to because my boyfriend’s dad had arrived and it would be rude not to greet him, especially considering this was the first time we’d met.
It’s fair to say that the opening line, “Cup of tea?” had piqued my interest. Every self-respecting Brit knows the mundane yet sacred phrase.
So I read on, and quickly became entranced with the opening scene, the post-breakup ritual of returning items. I still had my doubts about how easily we would be able to flow from this to the very start of the relationship described in the book but I was now captivated by Hayes’ writing.
The protagonist’s firey personality shone through from the very chapter, instantly likable though not free from flaws. She was human, as were all of Hayes’ characters.
An interesting note would be the way that the protagonist remains unnamed throughout the book. One would expect to notice something missing, but I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t read someone else’s review that pointed it out. I found myself wondering why this choice was made, perhaps it made it easier to displace yourself into her shoes or maybe it just made sense within the first person narrative. Whatever the reason, it didn’t hinder the book in the slightest, so for all you writers who spend hours labouring over a name choice, maybe don’t?
Now, once I was a few chapters in, I became aware of the fact that the reverse narrative wasn’t bothering me in the slightest. In fact, when I made myself try to look out for it, it became apparent that Hayes had a truly artful way of tying the chapters together.
I would expect, at points, the skips from one event to an event further in the past to feel a little bit disjointed. However, it feels much more like the natural progression of taking a trip down memory lane, where one memory of an event triggers the memory of a prior event.
In both her beautifully human characterisation and her effortless ability to create a reverse narrative, Hayes weaves a tale that seems to be not simply a romance, but a study in relationships and human nature. Her depiction of mental health is also well done, not as a tool for the story or as a way of making a book relevant with the recent progression in mental health awareness, but simply as another aspect of things that can, and do, happen to people.
A final point, then, before I get into a more general overview, would be how happy I was to see chapter titles. Recently, they seem to have been going out of fashion, and a simple number seems to be in favour. I miss chapter titles and any book that attempts to use them wins brownie points. Any book that uses them well will find itself making its way into my favourites. Out of Love uses chapter titles well.
In summary, despite my initial reservations about the structure of the book, Hazel Hayes’ Out of Love captivated me. Definitely a read for anyone who wants to be truly entwined in the life of another for a few hours or however long it takes you to read the book.