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Starter for Ten [Paperback]

David Nicholls
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2003

The year is 1985 and Brian has just started his first term at university, armed with the obligatory CND membership and a complete set of Kate Bush albums. But he also has a dark secret - a long-held, burning ambition to appear on University Challenge and now, finally, it seems the dream is about to become reality. He's made the team, they've successfully completed the qualifying rounds and are limbering up for their first televised match in January. Surely it's only a matter of time before Brian is shaking hands with Bamber Gascoigne and holding aloft the silver-plated commemorative plaque?

But Brian has a whole lot of living to do before then and when he falls in love with his team-mate, the off-puttingly posh Alice, he finds there's more than a spanner in the works ...

In STARTER FOR TEN, David Nicholls has written a novel that will have you sniggering uncontrollably for days and leave you begging for more. Are you up to the challenge?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; 1st Trade Paperback edition (1 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340734868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340734865
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 883,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Nicholls trained as an actor before making the switch to writing. His TV credits include the third series of Cold Feet, Rescue Me, and I Saw You, as well as a much-praised modern version of Much Ado About Nothing and an adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, both for BBC TV. David has continued to write for film and TV as well as writing novels, and he has twice been nominated for BAFTA awards.

David's bestselling first novel, STARTER FOR TEN, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club in 2004, and David has written the screenplays for film versions of both STARTER FOR TEN (released in 2006, starring James McAvoy) and THE UNDERSTUDY (not yet released). His third novel, ONE DAY, was published in hardback in 2009 to extraordinary critical acclaim, and stayed in the Sunday Times top ten bestseller list for ten weeks on publication.

For further information, visit the author's website

Product Description

Amazon Review

Is David Nicholls' Starter for Ten a throwback? Many readers look back with nostalgia to a recent golden age of comic writing, when David Lodge, Malcolm Bradbury and Tom Sharpe were producing some achingly funny work, with brilliantly realised characters. But Nicholls' sharp-as-nails novel has all the comic acumen of his great predecessors (along with their frequently-utilised university campus milieu) and, like Lodge and co., Nicholls writes real characters, not just boobies suitable only for pratfalls and sexual embarrassment. So even though the situations may often be ridiculous, we're still engaged by the protagonists.

Here, they are university student Brian Jackson and aspiring actress Alice Harbinson. Brian has arrived at his place of learning with a stronger desire than the acquisition of knowledge: he's going to be a star of TV's hottest quiz. But his progress on "The Challenge" is somewhat stymied by his growing desire for the beguiling Alice, struggling to make her mark as an actress. And as obstacles impede their affair, Brian becomes more and more convinced that only overwhelming success on the quiz show will win her.

What makes this novel such a delight, apart from the strongly drawn characters (both major and minor) is the coruscating dialogue: Nicholls writes comic dialogue like a dream, and his targets are many and varied: the idiocies of love and sex, the ludicrous pursuit of meaningless TV celebrity, fat cat businessmen lining their pockets--you name it, and it's probably here; Starter for Ten is a panoply of modern Britain with all its glories and excesses writ large. Nicholls wrote the third series of the hit TV series Cold Feet, which is as good a demonstration of his credentials as one could wish for. But Starter for Ten is his best work; there are no false notes struck by miscast actors, just prose that has a comic energy not often encountered these days. --Barry Forshaw


Moving, wickedly observed, warm, uplifting and above all blindingly funny, Starter for Ten hits the spot time after time. Read this book (Jack)

This funny tale from the writer of Cold Feet will have you laughing out loud (The Herald)

Starter for Ten is the debut of the year; a recommendation repeated by all who come in contact with it ... Trust us, you'll love it (Arena)

There is enough humour and warmth that you can imagine the film version being the next Brassed Off (Eve)

A toe-curlingly embarrassing and cleverly observed comedy ... it'll have you wincing and laughing simultaneously. Fabulous (Company)

A bittersweet coming-of-age tale ... Brian conjure[s] up strong echoes of one of that era's literary heroes, Adrian Mole ... A fine, funny book (Heat)

Hugely entertaining ... Anyone who has ever suffered the ordeals of freshers' week, teenage angst, unrequited love - or all three - will wince with sympathy and nostalgia (Daily Mail)

A funny, touching novel reminiscent of the classic film Gregory's Girl with an authentic 1980s backdrop (Sunday Mirror)

Nicholls' portrayal of student affectations is accurate and funny ... clever and well-written (Independent)

Hilarious ... you won't be able to put it down (OK)

Spry, affecting debut ... If it's possible to wince with your whole body, that broadly equates to my experience of reading it (Time Out)

Painfully funny (Elle)

Warm and funny ... Hilarious (Daily Mirror)

Hugely (and deservedly) hyped ... Achingly funny (She)

For conjuring up all those cringeworthy moments of youth, this read is unrivalled (Glamour)

I laughed out loud, I cringed in recognition, and more than once I paused in admiration at an observation so wry, so on the money, I wondered why it had never occurred to me before. There have been many pretenders to the throne of Hornby; David Nicholls is his legitimate heir (Mike Bullen, creator of 'Cold Feet')

Absolutely fabulous ... brilliantly funny (Jenny Colgan, author of Amanda's Wedding)

Wonderfully written ... This is a lovely look back at a time when you were young enough to think that anything could happen (The Word)

I absolutely loved Starter for Ten (Emily Barr, author of Backpack)

What a delight... David Nicholls is enormously talented, he has an exquisite eye for details, humour and the ridiculous and he deserves every ounce of the huge success he will undoubtedly have with this pleasure of a book (Anna Maxted, author of Getting Over It)

Relentlessly delightful (Mil Millington, author of Things My Girlfriend and)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'A' for entertainment value 25 Aug 2007
By International Cowgirl VINE VOICE
Way better than the cop-out film version, Starter for Ten is funny, clever and a wee bit more subversive than you might expect. Leading `man' Brian Jackson flounders about in the shallow end of adulthood as he sets out to make his mark at an unnamed university during the 1980s. Ah, the decade that taste forgot - cue deely boppers and Rubik's cubes, you might be thinking. But you'd be wrong. From right-on Rebecca to Brian's taste in music, even the archaic price of a dinner of two... Starter for Ten is resolutely `eighties', without ever forcing it down your throat.

There's nothing earth-shattering here, let's be honest. The slightly careworn plot tells the age-old tale of acne-strewn adolescent chasing unattainable blonde bombshell. But the joy of it is that Nicholls is brave enough to portray young Brian in all his spineless glory. Whether handling a prickly Glaswegian or offering solace to his oldest friend, when it comes to moral dilemmas our `hero' has a refreshing knack for doing the wrong thing. A man for whom the phrase `faux pas' was surely coined, he's also a dab hand at saying the wrong thing, to genuinely quite side-splitting effect. As you might expect from a TV scriptwriter, Nicholls has a real gift for dialogue. The ending isn't entirely unexpected, but gets a fresh twist that makes it happy and sad at the same time without selling out. Recommended.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light weight but very funny 27 Oct 2004
By A Customer
This book is a quick and very funny read - I picked it up in an airport based on the fact that it was set in my era, and it was a light read for my journey.

I disagree with other reviewers comments that none of the characters are likeable. In particular, the main character, Brian, a spotty geek who tries too hard to be liked with his cringe-inducingly inapproprate jokes is engaging.

Set in the 1980s, Brian is off to university. He struggles to keep his drop-out school friends, fit in at university and pull the girl of his dreams by joining the University Challenge team. If only he were cool enough!

I won't give it away, but the book builds to a crescendo a couple of times with episodes that had me almost gasping with horror whilst nearly wetting myself laughing at the same time.

Would make a good TV drama.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
By Amy
This book resonates with my own life and experiences on so many levels; an Essex girl myself, familiar with all Brian's Southend haunts, I read this book during my difficult first year at University. I would come back from lectures, deflated, disappointed and lonely, brew myself a cuppa, reach for the HobNobs, and curl up in my room with this book. So many of his experiences seemed to parallel my own, and perhaps this is why I found it so enjoyable (and laugh-out-loud funny), and certainly allowed me to look at my own situation in a less serious light. Two years on I'm writing my dissertation and about to graduate, but I still continue to recommend and lend this book to anyone who will listen.
Buy this book (along with 'Swallowing Grandma') for anyone you know who is about to leave for University, it will certainly cheer them up in their lonelier moments and help them feel less lonely and weird. :)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK but not what I had hoped for 12 May 2004
The comments on the cover and most of the previous reviews led me to believe I was in for a right laugh with this one. It wasn't the case and only occasionally laughed but not out loud. It is a well written, intelligent book with some laughs and a harmless, light meandering story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By EmmaJ
I read this book after reading One Day, I was keen to get my hands on anything else written by David Nicholls (undoubtedly a brilliant writer). I found this book a let-down after the brilliance of One Day, possibly because I couldn't get to grips with the adolescent male psyche.
Parts of it are incredibly funny and like One Day his writing is very real, as are the characters. The pace of the book was rather slow and the subject matter quite depressing, saying that I still read it quickly and was keen to see what happened at the end. It seems that everything built up to the final chapter which was over as soon as it started leaving me feeling rather unfulfilled.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comic Tale of a University `Rite of Passage' 10 Mar 2011
By anozama
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Our anti-hero struggles gamely with his awkward age, social class, and level of self -confidence.

Nevetheless, spurred on by a reasonably high IQ and an optimistic personality, he constructs his social life, which consists of one part fulfillment and three parts disaster.

This evocation of university life is packed with witty observations.(It probably helps if you've had similar experiences to the protagonist).

The characters he meets on the way are fun to be with, and the plot is neat and satisying enough to propel us through his story.

Good fun - our hero enjoys his life, and we enjoy it even more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feel good read 18 Jan 2011
Loved it. Every student from a certain age will be able to relate the characters and situations. Entertaining, funny and makes you feel like you've just had a couple of light and bitters, Sunday roast and apple pie and custard to finish. Marvellous!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing if you have already read One Day 6 Jan 2011
By Kerrie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read One Day (also by David Nicholls) and was simply enchanted by such a well written and thought provoking book. When I saw this and realised it was by the same guy I snapped it up (incidentally it was written before One Day)and I had high hopes........but I was left a little disappointed. It is readable and if the 80's are your formative years you will enjoy the nostalgia it provokes, but it isnt nearly as well written as One Day and the characters aren't as believable.
Still a pleasant read, but not a GREAT read for me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
I am one who will start reading a book, but never end up finishing it. However, that can't be said for Starter for Ten; I couldn't put it down! Read more
Published 16 days ago by Asa Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Extremely funny
Published 18 days ago by julia kim lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 23 days ago by Jill Phipps
3.0 out of 5 stars It's okay.
I bought this book by accident (thinking it was something else) but I decided to give it a go. I had previously read 'One Day' and had quite high hopes for this book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Charlie
3.0 out of 5 stars Aftter "One Day".............................
Having read 'One Day' first I decided to get David Nicholl's other couple of books. I was utterly captivated and moved by the style and story of the first book I read so I guess it... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jelly-Bean
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Read
Enjoyed reading this book - although female, I could still empathise with the narrator. Very amusing and entertaining. A bit like a grown up version of Adrian Mole.
Published 2 months ago by Rosemary Bryant
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
Loved this book. Very well written and an interesting story line. Good fun. I'm not giving anything away about the story but if you have been to uni, would probably have a good... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Penylan
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny book
I love this author.....once you open his books you don't want to put them down. His humour is my kind of humour and as this book was written in my teenage era (70's) I could... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Elizabeth A McLean
4.0 out of 5 stars Better Than One Day
Starter for Ten is a story of love and confusion and awkward adolescence, caught through the eyes of Brian Jackson, a nerdy, socially inept teenager, who starts his first term at... Read more
Published 5 months ago by George Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Picked this up in an airport to pass the time on a long flight. Set in my era (the 80s), the central characters experiences of going to University will ring bells for many who... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Nick
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