RSVP by Helen Warner

RSVP Book Cover


You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year…

Meet: Anna, the Heartbroken Ex

   Clare, the Best Friend

   Ella, the Femme Fatale

   Rachel, the Bride-to-Be

It’s the day Anna always dreamed of: The Love of her Life is at the altar, about to say ‘I do’. But that’s where the dream ends, because although he’s The One, he’s about to become another woman’s husband. Or is he…?

I wanted to like this book. I love a wedding. I love a heartbreak-to-reunion story. The blurb made it sound like there was going to be drama, like the fun kind of drama where you don’t know quite what is going to happen. But honestly, I’d describe the story as more of a too-long soap opera episode. It’s obvious from the start that Anna, who’s been pining for her uni boyfriend, Toby, for the last ten years since she broke up with him, is going to cause a fiasco when she gets invited to his wedding. What I didn’t expect was for the wedding to consist of only two short chapters halfway through the book.

The second half of the novel details them getting back together and Anna’s suspicion that Toby is still in love with his ex-fiancée (I mean they were together for seven years, about to get married, and it’s only been a minute since they broke up, but y’know, you kick off because he still cares about her). There is also no end of people being secretly in love with friends they have never shown an interest in before, falling madly in love after one great shag (I promise you that’s lust, not love) and pregnancies cropping up here, there and everywhere. It’s like Warner wanted to squeeze every possible cliché that exists in chick-lit into this one novel.

And that’s all before we’ve mentioned the writing: 

The sun is a melon-coloured semicircle.

Right, so you remember when your high school English teacher told you to use metaphors and similes and all the other literary techniques that examiners look for – yeah, even they would be cringing at that. The writing is very flowery and every sentence is laden with unnecessary description and handfuls more adjectives than required. There is also a lot of repetition, just in case you forget one of the many unessential facts that has been thrown in as “important backstory”.

The novel is told from the point of view of all four of the women mentioned in the blurb. Fortunately though, it’s written in third person, so it’s always clear whose perspective the story is being told from at any particular moment. 

Where the narration does become confusing is in regards to its chronology. The first half of the novel flicks between the present day and several different periods in Toby’s relationships with both Anna and Rachel. The time periods are identifiable by their differing tenses because Warner is another author who insists on using the present tense, employing the past tense for either flashbacks or when readdressing characters’ past thoughts. I found the jumping tenses to be confusing and I often found myself getting distracted by which tense was being used. This was especially the case in sentences which described ongoing actions but that employed the past tense. For example, Clare discusses her salary in the past tense as though she is no longer being paid for the work that she is still continuing to do. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are times when the present tense works well in literature, when it creates a sense of urgency and presence – but it just felt unnecessary in this novel.

As I said, I really wanted to like this book. The plot had great potential, some of the characters are likeable and there were times when I was invested in the outcome of the events. However, I think it needed some of the adjectives and clichés weeding out, and to end two hundred pages earlier. Perhaps that way we could have avoided me descending into hysterics at the final twenty pages of pure, unadulterated absurdity!

I’ll end now with a short quote from the book and if anyone can explain to me what the moisture content of the pavement has to do with anything, please leave a comment below.

Anna nods, turns on her heel and walks quickly down the street, hunting desperately for a cab, her eyes blurred, even though the pavement beneath her feet is bone dry.

You can buy RSVP* by Helen Warner:

From Amazon.

From Waterstones.

Or from wherever you usually buy your books.

*This book has also been published as The One That Got Away.

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