Romance Is Literature Too: Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane | Book Review

‘You know, I could get offended,’ Elliot said.

‘I thought you’d want to share yourself around!’ Edie said.

‘What am I, fucking hummus?!’

I’ve recently graduated from UoR, where I studied English literature and Language. Whilst there, I definitely got a certain vibe from particular lecturers,  that some books just weren’t good enough to be considered literature. But why?

Why is there such a stigma against certain genres?

Classic novels are viewed as the be all and end all of literature. Every ‘Top 100 books you must read in your lifetime’ list is jam packed full of classic books that are deemed great because they’ve been viewed as notable works of fiction.

It’s not as if I haven’t read any classics, but I definitely don’t read them exclusively. It’s complicated, because when I do read them, I feel somewhere deep down inside of me thinking myself better for having read it. Pressures are put on us to read ‘literature that is viewed as good’. In comparison, if you want to read a romance novel, it’s viewed as ‘trashy’ and would never be considered literature in the same right. And it’s not just romance novels – YA novels are widely read, but not considered to be literature in the same right.

People argue, “but those sorts of books are not as thought-provoking as proper literature, there’s no real substance”. I whole heartedly disagree.

I just finished reading Who’s That Girl by Mhairi Mcfarlane which is a romance novel about a woman called Edie. At the beginning of the book, a man she works with kisses her, on his own wedding day. The story builds from there, with her world crumbling around her as she is pushed out of a circle that blames her for the incident at the wedding. It explores ideas of the patriarchy and how women shouldn’t vilify other woman, which I’m a major fan of. #galssupportinggals


Because of the treatment she’s getting, she temporarily moves back to Nottingham where her understanding boss places her on a project to ghost write a book by Elliot Owen, who just so happens to be an extremely popular actor. As a sidenote, I can entirely understand if people say that romance novels are unrealistic and not their cup of tea because of that, that’s totally reasonable. However, unrealistic plot lines, and not having substance or depth are completely different things.

Who’s That Girl has such a delicately complicated story. Woven into the plot are sensitive topics such as how people deal with grief in different ways, and how these differences can cause fractures within the family dynamic. It also looks at mental health issues such as depression in a very head on way, and allows characters to be viewed as people with complex problems, making it feel realistic.

Because of McFarlane’s smooth writing, the romance in the novel is on par and just as interesting as the relationships that Edie has with the other characters, such as her dad and sister. And everything is tied together with quick witted characters, and a great comedic undertone to the whole novel.

All I’m saying is give it a go before you trash an entire genre based on generic stereotypes. #shrug

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2 thoughts on “Romance Is Literature Too: Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane | Book Review

  1. otherfennel

    This tendency also goes with the fantasy genre — literature is quite the elite concept, really. Any story that has depth and meaning should be literary.

    If you should happen to not mind the fantasy genre, I’d gladly offer a free mobi (for the Kindle) of a novella I’ve written that is relatively diverse and has vampires (Does it already sound less literary? I certainly think/hope there’s depth there, but no worries if you’ve no interest).


    1. Jaz Damen

      I entirely agree, I think anything should start with the base that it can be considered literature in its own right.

      Also that sounds interesting – I don’t read much fantasy, and have never read a vampire book since twilight so i ‘m certainly intrigued. Feel free to email me at with more info! – Jaz 🙂


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