REVIEW: The Minute I Saw You by Paige Toon

In brief: Hannah doesn’t do relationships. Which is a good thing, because nor does Sonny. But will this damaged pair open up to each other?

The good: A lot of summer fun and sweet moments.

The not-so-good: The secret revelations – wow, a lot to unpack.

Why I chose it: Paige Toon’s novels are always worthwhile entertainment. Thanks to Penguin for the copy.

Year: 2020

Pages: 394

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)

Setting: Mainly Cambridge, England

Rating: 8 out of 10

Paige Toon’s novels have been a relatively recent discovery for me and I had forgotten how relaxing they are. It was simply delightful to read of summer days and social gatherings while at home in the cold. The Minute I Saw You is refreshing and sweet, but with a hidden core of secrets that are equal parts powerful and shocking. It makes for a novel with characters that are hard to forget.

Hannah is back in Cambridge, house sitting for her uncle. She hasn’t been one for doing anything long term, preferring travel and brief encounters. But now she has a job, a house and dog to look after. When Sonny comes into the optometrist’s where she works, sparks fly. He’s perfect for a short and sweet fling as he lives in Amsterdam. But when he reappears to collect his glasses, he’s a damaged man. Hannah gets to know Sonny and his friends through Matilda, who she meets on the walk to work. Through Archie and Matilda, Sonny and Hannah get to know each other as friends and Sonny opens up a little about recent events that have him seeing a counsellor (who happens to have rooms attached to Hannah’s house). Sonny is trying to work through his battles, as is Hannah. She doesn’t want to get close to anyone, and Sonny is using relationships badly. As time goes on, Hannah and Sonny get closer but are held back by what is in their pasts. Can Hannah trust Sonny and her new friends? Or is it time to move on?

Both Hannah and Sonny have a lot of baggage. Sonny’s is gradually revealed through the novel while Hannah reveals all in one go, which is a lot to take on board! I had to step back and process it all myself (you would never guess her past) before I felt ready to go on. I’m not saying that it’s out of step for the character, it’s just pretty heavy. I felt I should reflect on it out of respect for Hannah’s character, who I really liked. She’s smart, but not over the top and fun. There are hints as to her past sprinkled through the novel, but they add up to a major event that has invariably shaped her. Sonny’s problems are not small by comparison, but their gradual reveal made it easier to process for me. Toon handles the characters brilliantly, their responses and actions felt totally in tune with their pasts. The voices were very authentic and the friends to lovers story sweet, yet not over the top. She has also created the supporting characters, such as Matilda and Archie, very well as true friends and believable characters. The token nasty girl is truly nasty and it’s nice to see her slink off into the sunset without getting into Hannah’s head too much.

The book is an easy, enjoyable read that highlights casual social outings (all the more poignant at the moment) of drinking and chatting, punting (it’s Cambridge) and spending time with friends. If you’re familiar with Cambridge (or the show Grantchester) I think you would enjoy the descriptions of place even more. Paige Toon writes in a style that really gets the reader into the head of the character. I feel like I’ve just spent a summer in England and am refreshed after reading The Minute I Saw You.

If you would like to catch up with other readers’ thoughts on The Minute I Saw You, check out the blogs listed below:

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