Starter for Ten by David Nicholls.
I enjoyed ‘Us’ so much that I just had to read this. It’s been on my Kindle for ages, and after favouring my beloved paperbacks for so long, I felt that I needed to show my Kindle so TLC. Starter for Ten is follows Brian, a working class boy who’s about to embark on life at University. Something his widowed mother isn’t looking forward to and his two friends Tone and Spencer seem to be giving him a lot of stick about.
Through fashion faux pas and bad first impressions, Brian finds himself at a party where he sees and falls in love with Alice Harbinson. It becomes Brian’s ambition to make her fall in love with him. But of course this being a David Nicholls book, it’s not all plain sailing. When an opportunity comes to up to appear on University Challenge, something that has been a lifelong dream of Brian’s. He sees it as an opportunity to get closer to Alison, but instead he finds himself ostracising himself from the obsessive team captain Patrick, and making incredibly awkward statements to teammate Lucy Chang.
But behind the humour and the toe curling awkwardness is a novel that focuses very much on young people. Trying to find their place in the world, certain of what they think they want to be and then realising that they’re wrong. At the very centre of the novel are the subtle ways in which David Nicholls deals with the death of Brian’s father. Something which Brian seems to rarely acknowledge, but actually it’s in his lack of acceptance that some of the nicer and more heart breaking moments happen.
Although undoubtedly well written, I just didn’t feel as though the characters in this were as well developed and predicted some of the things that happened.
Star Rating out of 5: 3
‘And it occurs to me that I’m not clever at all, that in fact I am without doubt the most ignorant, the most profoundly and hopelessly stupid person in the whole world.’
Happy reading lovely book folk.
Us by David Nicholls.
I’ve never read a book by David Nicholls before. He’s always been highly recommended to me (both my brother in law AND mother in law have suggested him) I have had Starter of Ten sat on my Kindle for just over a year and I know what you’re thinking, that surely it would have been better to start with one of his older books rather than jump in with his most recent. And you’re probably right, I should have done. But this book was loaned to me to by a work colleague’s wife (pass my thanks to Amanda please Dan) so I figured I’d start with it.
The book starts with Douglas telling us how in the middle of the night his wife Connie tells him she thinks their marriage has come to an end. Douglas cannot understand it, he’s still perfectly happy and in love with his wife, but it seems the feeling isn’t reciprocated. However it’s decided that no further action should be taken (moving out/divorce) until they have finished their ‘Grand Tour’ holiday around most of Europe. A trip they will take with their teenage son Albie, a sullenly young man who Douglas can’t seem to connect with and only seems to annoy and embarrass.
Almost instantly what I loved about this was the humour, it was genuine and I couldn’t understand why son and wife didn’t find Douglas funny (but of course that’s the point) it was observational and warm and honest, almost like reading a story of your own life or experiences. As the novel progressed the tensions of family life and the dynamics of the relationships between the characters become clearer, this was both incredible and infuriating. As a reader you know and understand that Douglas seems to ‘moan’ but it’s because he loves his son and wants to provide him with the kind of relationship he never had himself.
‘Why should it trouble me? It’s the face itself that I love, not that face at twenty-eight or thirty-four or forty-three. It’s that face.’
Douglas clearly loves his wife and son but he feels that it’s very much them against him. Which at times was heart breaking to read, especially when he tried to be more relaxed and approach things with a more devil may care attitude. The book went up and down, very much like life and it was this very human heart that kept it so engaging. Well that and the humour. I really loved this and laughed my way through many a page (the section with the jellyfish particularly made me chuckle although I quickly felt terrible) the ending wasn’t what I wanted, but neither is life, and I feel that’s the point that David Nicholls is trying to make. That life throws things at you and doesn’t always turn out the way you hoped, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful and memorable.
Star Rating out of 5: 4.5
‘..And it occurred to me that perhaps grief is as much regret for what we never had as sorrow for what we have lost.’
By sheer luck a few days later I stumbled upon a pre-loved copy of One Day for 50p but think I’m going to read Starter for Ten first.
Happy reading fellow bookworms.