‘Starter for Ten’

I love it when authors continue to write brilliant books without simply copying the winning formulae from their previously successful books. David Nicholls is one of those authors…I have read his books in the wrong order…but this hasn’t ruined the fun. The “correct” order would have been…

1) Starter for Ten

2) The Understudy

3) One Day

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I am very grateful to her for it! I was laughing and sniggering throughout! This is the first non-autobiographical book that has made me laugh! I mean there were are lots of moments in various books that make me chuckle, especially poor Stephen C McQueen (no relation)’s escapades in The Understudy but I was smiling the WHOLE way through this one!

Poor poor protagonist Brian…a character who we can feel comfortable laughing at because we’ve been in similar situations ourselves, we can relate to him! We meet Brian in the 80s shortly before he heads off to University…with acne-covered skin, a penchant for quizzes and an obsession with the work of Kate Bush, he is a brilliant character and yet, he is extremely ordinary. What is hilarious throughout the book is that Brian is unaware of his ordinariness…in fact, it seems that he is waiting for the world to discover how wonderful he is. The only problem is…that those people (unless they are true geniuses…or audition for Big Brother…) usually get brought back to Earth with a bang!

Anyway, Brian goes off to University with big dreams! He is going to attend every single lecture without fail, concentrate on his studies and be one of lives achievers!

This mentality lasts for less than one night as he becomes enchanted by a girl called Alice, one of those beautiful girls who we all knew at University who led boys on and played the innocent victim of unwanted feelings – however, Brian was a bit too keen…so he becomes besotted with Alice, which leads to the inevitable fall. Along the way he auditions for ‘University Challenge’, experiences those moments that we all shared at University (i.e. being told to keep the noise down, not doing as well in an essay as you’d hoped – even if you didn’t put as much effort in as usual, saying something stupid in a nervous moment, which leads to you looking like a fool…trying to work out who we are/who we want to become, first major hangover…etc. etc.) and learns a LOT about himself – not so much about “Eng Lit”.

This book is a joy to read, even if there were parts that I couldn’t personally relate to, those things happened to friends of mine! Although in a ‘Napoleon Dynamite-esque’ way, nothing massively exciting happens, Nicholls’ style of writing is so smooth and enjoyable! The book describes life for one ordinary boy going to University in the 80s…there are plenty of subtle references to life in the 80s, without being too overpowering and frankly, it is hilarious!

This would be a great present for someone starting University, someone currently at University, someone who has been through University…hell, it would be a great present for anyone! 


‘The Understudy’

Another cracking book from the author of One Day David Nicholls! This hilarious book tells the story of Stephen C McQueen…an understudy to Josh Harper – the 12th Sexiest Man in the World. Not only does Stephen have an unfortunate name but he barely sees his daughter, he has a tiny flat and he pays the bills with small parts in TV programmes and random children’s films…he also plays a dead person quite well apparently…basically, it is fair to say that things aren’t going tremendously for Stephen but they are going brilliantly for Josh Harper…you spend the whole book hoping that Josh will fall down the stairs or something…just so Stephen can catch a break!

This book cleverly tells the story of the underdog…whilst humorously proving that just because you want something to happen, more often than not…you can’t just get it at someone else’s expense. Nicholls has the ability to transform the ‘everyman’ character into the leading man and it is refreshing to read this book as we’ve all had those moments where we’ve misunderstood what someone has said…and then ended up with egg on our faces…we’ve also had those moments where we wonder why we bother pursuing our dreams just to have them shot down.

I’ve literally just been recommended ‘Starter for Ten’, another David Nicholls book…which I’ll be adding to my pile very soon! He seems to have a real knack for creating realistic characters that we can all relate to and I really enjoy reading about them. I urge you to pick up a David Nicholls book and have a read, even if you’re trying to avoid the hype of One Day, you should still give them a chance! You might be surprised!

‘One Day’

Now, I know I said I wasn’t going to buy any more books until I finish the ones I have…but…firstly, I forgot to bring a book with me on a recent trip to Dublin and secondly my lovely boyfriend actually expressed an interest in reading this and he reads so infrequently that I just had to encourage him…

So anyway, I finished this book yesterday on the tube and after doing so, realised that the man next to me was also reading it…as is my best friend and a colleague at work, having been recommended to read it by three other colleagues…so let’s just say, I’d heard it was worth a read!

Although I knew the format of the book and the basic concept, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed fast-tracking through the lives of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew because I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. David Nicholls’ writing completely and utterly drew me in…my only regret was that I reached “that point” just before I had to get off of the tube and let’s just say, it put a different spin on my Wednesday.

The cultural references throughout the book were absolutely wonderful, a point that was reiterated by one of my three colleagues who had recommended it, during our various discussions about it. We’ve all had those ‘I wonder what we’ll be like when we’re older’ moments and pondered how different the world would be and retrospectively, it was just enthralling to look back and see how the world has changed since 1988 through the eyes of two friends, on the same date every year.

I found it absolutely absorbing, as a (sort-of) recent graduate, the evolution from aspiring University student to disheartened job-seeker, taking any job that will pay the bills without getting too demoralised…seeing friends getting married, having babies, getting promoted…although I’m only in my first job and have a lot more to achieve, I’m a planner…I know roughly how I want things to happen for me and reading Emma’s sections really kicked me into gear. I rarely find characters that I can relate to as much as Emma and this was both a delight and a wake-up call for me.

Also…I think we all know a ‘Dexter’…someone who was born with more doors open to them than us, who we consider to be rather wasteful...and yet we cannot stay away from them! My Granddad always says “…some people are takers, the rest of us are givers” and this echoed through my head when I read this book.

What I loved most about this book was that in spite of the unconventional format, it was so real. What the characters felt, I felt, what the characters thought about, I then thought about…I love books that move me to emotion. Regardless of which emotion, I find it absolutely fascinating that books can invoke such strong feelings in the reader. This is predominantly where my passion for books lies…from having to put my copy of Roald Dahl’s The Witches downstairs at bedtime, to crying my eyes out at Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook, this book made me realise that there is only so much time in our lives to do what we want, go where we want, be who we want and that we shouldn’t waste a second!

So, there is only a couple of months left to read this book before the film comes out…Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star as our protagonists and it will be interesting to witness both the chemistry between them and Anne’s Yorkshire accent…The trailer is available on IMDb but don’t forget to read the book a.s.a.p!

It’s simply wonderful!