I read One Day by David Nicholls in the first half of 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed it (apart from the end). Before I left for Dubai a friend told me she was reading Starter for Ten by the same author and that it was hilarious. I’d already started reading Game of Thrones but needed to swap it for something light and easy so I could hit my 20 books in 2011 (which I missed by one book). I didn’t know it was published in 2003 and I didn’t know it was already a movie.
I was laughing from the very beginning of the book. It’s 1985 and Brian is a working-class Essex boy who starts his first term at university. He’s obsessed with Kate Bush, a student called Alice, and getting on University Challenge (which is where the title of the novel comes from). Brian is such a nerd and so socially awkward that he finds himself in the most ridiculous situations, saying the most cringe-worthy things. For example:
“‘Well…’ says Alice ‘…we had some friends round, like we always do on Boxing Day, and we were playing charades, and it was my turn, and I was trying to do ‘Last Year At Marienbad’ for Mummy, and she was getting so frantic and over-excited, and shouting so hard, that her cap popped out and landed right in our next-door neighbour’s glass of wine!’
And everyone’s laughing, even Mr Harbinson, and the atmosphere is so funny and adult and amusing and irreverent that I say, ‘You mean you weren’t wearing any underwear?!?’
Everyone is silent.
‘I’m sorry?’ asks Rose.
‘Your cap. When it popped out. How did it get past your… underpants?’
Mr Harbinson puts down his knife and fork, swallows his mouthful, turns to me and says, very slowly, ‘Actually, Brian, I think Alice was referring to her mother’s dental cap.'”
Mortifying, isn’t it? It’s one situation after the other and I laughed all the way through. Yes, Brian is annoying at times – but nobody’s perfect. Are they?
I thought One Day was better written, more refined, but this was much funnier. The Understudy is definitely going to be on my list for 2012. And… I’ve just bought a ticket to see David Nicholls at the Emirates Festival of Literature in March, here in Dubai!
Anyway, that’s the first of my 20 books in 2012! I think my next review might be a few weeks away. I need to start reading more! At this rate I won’t even get to 10 books in 2012. I’ve gone back to reading Game of Thrones which is taking me forever (but then I do only read one chapter each night).