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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book
This is a really excellent book. It is exceptionally well written, witty, humane, perceptive and extremely touching. The plot is simply a chronicle of how the lives of two people and those associated with them develop as they grow older. There is marriage, birth, death, divorce, friendship and some tragedy, but no car chases, grisly murders or anything of the kind, and...
Published on 4 Jun 2010 by Sid Nuncius

versus
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The First Nobbs Novel I Haven't Liked
David Nobbs is perhaps my favourite comic novelist of all time, so it pains me to say that this is the first of his books I haven't thoroughly enjoyed.

Whilst the topic is classic Nobbs territory - difficulties with forming and sustaining relationships - an issue I first noticed in his previous novel 'Cupid's Darts'' comes to the fore here.

'Cupids...
Published on 7 Sep 2010 by A. Miles


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, 4 Jun 2010
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a really excellent book. It is exceptionally well written, witty, humane, perceptive and extremely touching. The plot is simply a chronicle of how the lives of two people and those associated with them develop as they grow older. There is marriage, birth, death, divorce, friendship and some tragedy, but no car chases, grisly murders or anything of the kind, and yet I found it utterly gripping. It kept me engrossed in the lives of people whom I really cared about in a way that few other books have done and genuinely made me think about what is important in relationships and in life.

The story opens in 1978 with Naomi and Timothy discovering sex together aged 18, and follows episodes in their lives for the next thirty years, sometimes apart and sometimes together. David Nobbs has a wonderful talent for seeing honestly and describing brilliantly the way people behave, think and feel. With Timothy in the first section of the book, for example, he catches with perfect delicacy the teenage sense that everyone else somehow knows how to behave, what to say, what to wear and so on, and that you don't but must try look as though you do. He paints a full cast of real, genuinely believable characters, and gently lays before us their foibles and mannerisms, the little lies they tell themselves to survive, the things they try to ignore because they are painful but know to be true, and so on. I felt that I had already met several of them in my life. David Nobbs is terrifically perceptive about them. He doesn't spare us their humiliations or their failings but treats them with tenderness and compassion. He reminds you, too, of people like the bloke who is always hanging around but is never really included, and that he, too, has feelings and a life, even if no-one ever takes an interest in him.

Important themes in the book are faith and organised religion, how they impact on lives and whether it is possible to have a meaningful, fulfilled life without them. It's exceptionally well done here: Nobbs's own position is very clear by the end of the book, but it's never preachy. He is very even-handed and he shows some of the fine and the ignoble aspects of both faith and atheism with equal insight, which makes this an enjoyable and thought-provoking aspect of the book, whether or not you agree with his final stance.

Nobbs's prose is a delight. He writes in the present tense here which I seldom like, but it works very well, giving the narrative a real flow through the years. It is straightforward, poised and excellently crafted, so that I seldom actually noticed the writing, and when I did it was just to notice how much I was enjoying it.

I don't often rave unreservedly about a book, but I think this is simply fantastic. Beautifully written, extremely readable, hugely entertaining and very thought-provoking, it's one of the best novels I've read for years and I recommend it very warmly indeed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The First Nobbs Novel I Haven't Liked, 7 Sep 2010
By 
A. Miles (Al Khor, Qatar) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
David Nobbs is perhaps my favourite comic novelist of all time, so it pains me to say that this is the first of his books I haven't thoroughly enjoyed.

Whilst the topic is classic Nobbs territory - difficulties with forming and sustaining relationships - an issue I first noticed in his previous novel 'Cupid's Darts'' comes to the fore here.

'Cupids Darts' was temporally, all over the shop, concerning as it did a romance between a 1960s-style university Don and a late 70s, new-wave punkette type. their romance took place in the 1980s world of televised, celebrity dart matches and was set in the mid 2000s. One got the sense then that Mr Nobbs had started to float free of reality and begun to set his novels in a sort of optional era where characters and themes from the entire post-war period could mingle at will.

'Obstacles',then, plotted as it is as a series of visits to the protagonists over many years, brings this problem into sharper relief.

We start off in what I initially presumed was the 1950s, with the two young lovers running away from a cozy world of teacosies and sensible cardigans for a dirty weekend in London. In fact, it's 1978, but a 1978 in which punk rock and urban rioting have been replaced by a revival of interest in the craft of taxidermy. You'll remember the late 70s, when there used to be a taxidermists on every street corner. Happy days.

Next we're in the early 1980s, when our two star-crossed lovers happen to bump into each other on a package tour of... the Amazon Rainforest. Readers in their mid-40s will recall what a popular holiday choice this was for cash-strapped 21 year old couples in 1982. All the lads in the factory where I worked then stuck a fiver in the post office every week so they could have a fortnight canoeing down the Amazon every August.

And so on. The novel is so full of these sort of anachronisms that I kept getting angry with it and putting it back on the shelf, only finishing it as I'm reviewing it on behalf of the Vine program. Whilst it till retains a lot of Nobbs trademark charm, it's lack of any basis in reality spoilt it for me.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Charming, Well-Observed Love Story, 1 Jun 2010
By 
G. J. Oxley "Gaz" (Tyne & Wear, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's the late 70s and sixth formers Naomi Walls and Timothy Pickering discover love in an Earls Court Hotel (particularly the second night of their stay). They've both lied to their parents (or in Timothy's case parent, singular) about where they are but inevitably they're found out. They split up not long after and the novel charts the passage of the years to date (actually 2008), following their two lives, together with their friends, families and acquaintances. There's a lot more to it than that of course, but I don't want to spoil it for you.

The book is a touching portrayal of two people who were `right' for each other, but initially just drift apart, meeting again at odd points throughout the years. There's absolutely nothing new in the story, but it's the quality of Nobbs' writing that elevates it above the rest of its ilk. I read his `Reggie Perrin' series decades ago and there's nothing as biting or satirical in here, but then it's not that type of novel. Characterisation, as you'd expect from such a writer, is spot-on; there are REAL people to be found among the pages of this book.

I can't say I laughed much while reading it, but I did find it moving, showing as it does the effects of love, death, reconciliation and the changes that time produces on the lives of ordinary people. And Nobbs never, repeat, never allows it all to drift into mere sentimentality.

There's a nice little twist at the end (that recalls Stephen Fry's `The Stars' Tennis Balls') that had me smiling. This is recommended to anyone who likes a nice, well-observed love story between two well-drawn and likeable people.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem, 26 May 2010
By 
T. Walker (Bedfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I read this expecting a comedy, but this book is far more than that. It charts the relationship between Timothy and Naomi over a twenty-five year period, from the time they were seventeen and spent an illicite three days in a hotel in London. What becomes of that relationship and their lives forms the touching story of this book. Yes, it's funny, very funny, in places, but there's so much more to it than that.
Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed book from an excellent writer, 26 Feb 2011
By 
Peter Cockerell "pcockerell" (Palo Alto, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
David Nobbs is one of my very favourite authors, has been kind enough to reply to a couple of my fan letters over the years (I first wrote to him after reading "Sack Race"), and even graciously critiqued a short story I sent him a few years back. I did feel that with this book, though, that the behaviours and speech of the characters were not always of their time, or age. The high-school version of Naomi was scarcely less thoughtful or insightful than her adult counterpart, and the mores of each time period didn't always seem to reflect what I remember of reality. I sometimes had the feeling reading it that David still inhabits (or wishes he did, perhaps) the era portrayed in Ostrich Country (his excellent pre-Perrin novel that everyone should read if they can find a copy). Speaking of anachronisms, one especially jarring passage was when he described Timothy and Liam listening to "both sides" of a CD in the car! I guess the charitable interpretation is that he's referring to both sides of what had been a vinyl album, now re-issued on CD, but somehow I doubt it.

All that said, he still writes in a beautiful, readable manner. The characters' inner dialogue is always thought provoking, and his writing has the power to move me like few other authors. In terms of the humour, it wasn't really up to some of his earlier works, provoking more smiles than laughs (and nothing to quite compare with the headline that Reggie reads on someone's newspaper in the first Perrin book: "Council House Armadillo Ban Protest March Row", which for some reason still cracks me up every time I think of it). The present tense worked fine for me, unlike for some commenters here. And Naomi's atheism so closely mirrors my own journey (I'm about two years younger than Timothy and Naomi), from an albeit sceptical Catholic schoolboy to dyed-in-the-wool atheist, that I couldn't help but relate, even if I could never imagine quite taking it to Naomi's extremes!

Any book by David Nobbs is well worth reading, but with this one I feel he didn't quite pull off his ambition for the novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two lovers story told over several years. Sounds famililar?, 10 Aug 2011
By 
A. Moseley (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
Timing is everything in comedy and perhaps the timing of this book, so soon after David Nicholls One Day, was not the best. Although none of the reviews I've read have made the comparison, for me it's an obvious one. Both books chart the relationship between two people who are destined to be together but take a long time to manage it. Both of them cover a large time frame and both of them choose selected moments rather than giving the full day to day life story. Unfortunately, Obstacles to Young Love lacks the ambition of One Day - there is no obvious reason for the time periods chosen to focus on, with some years skipped completely and others getting grouped together but feeling like the time frames they cover is more down to a need to go through the years rather than there being three or four years activity within them. Also, the characters never feel as real or as complete as they do in Nicholl's book possibly because we don't see them grow as we miss whole chunks of their lives. That is not to say that this is a bad book, merely that for what it is trying to achieve it comes over as very much second best to a book published at much the same time.

The plot of the book includes the battle between religion and atheism, and this is the next problem I have with the book - not that it does this, but that the extreme action Naomi takes to promote the atheist cause seems very much out of character, the events that lead up to her meltdown are well described but don't seem to justify the conclusion, and nor does the extremes of her anti-religious stance seem necessary for the central strand of the story (her relationship with Timothy) to work. Other aspects of the story, notably a suicide and the transformation of a minor character into a major influence on events, also come across as unconvincing and read as if several pages of developing storylines have been sacrificied in order to cram too much into what is already a long book. It would have been better if the number of main storylines and sub ones had been whittled down a bit to make a really focused novel.

So why, in spite of all of this, would I still give it three stars? Well for a start, there is still a lot of very amusing and very well observed writing here. The repetition of several phrases and events such as pennine drinking sessions, is excellent and something few others writers could pull off as well as Nobbs does. The almost identical sections of texts and recurring lines never feel stale and instead illustrate the routines that form so much of our lives. There are embarrasing scenes that are written with such and accuracy and honesty and the conversations between all the characters are genuine, reflective but never boring. On the whole it's worth a read, but if you've not read anything by Nobbs before start with Going Gently rather than with this, and if you have read Going Gently be prepared to be disappointed that an author who managed to condense the last century into one of the best books of this century can't manage to repeat this with a book scanning a far shorter time frame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hit the spot for me, 15 April 2011
By 
C. JONES "CJ" (Swansea, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
I have some respect for those reviewers who have found fault with this book. There is always an element of escapism with David Nobbs, but you could include Reggie Perrin in that. The whole idea of a man working in puddings, filling a river with loganberry juice to terrorise his boss before disappearing forever, then coming back and opening a business selling rubbish but admitting it is, depending on your point of view, over-the-top and absurd or deliciously larger than life. It may be worth pointing out, though, that the Perrin trilogy was a major success and translated into a memorable television series. Just so, and there is a comparable exaggeration of reality in this novel.

But as with the Perrin novels I felt that there was a lot of truth in this book. From the outset I was interested in Timothy and Naomi, and their strange lives, and felt the endless frustration of their doomed attempts to find happiness with other partners.

Whenever I read David Nobbs at his best, I always have the feeling that he's been following me about making notes, his observations of human weakness and self-doubt are so near the mark. I do enjoy his self-effacing asides, for example where he refers to the fiction writer's facile use of coincidence. He doesn't take himself too seriously, and perversely, this makes it so much easier for me to take him seriously.

I'll come straight out and say that I don't agree with David Nobbs about religion. The idea that people should be persuaded to abandon a belief in God, Allah, Yahweh or Mohammmed or even the Easter Bunny is anathema to me. However far I drift from organised religion, there will always be a core of belief, in which I find strength, that no-one can take away, nor indeed do I feel they have the right to try. But at least this novel opens up the debate, and I consider it an important one. If nothing else, it proves that my personal faith is strong enough to withstand opposition.

When you are made to care about the characters in a comic novel, it is not necessary for the book to be relentlessly funny. That is the case here, but at times it is painfully funny, because in spite of literary exaggeration it is true to life, and we can put ourselves in the place of Timothy, Naomi or any of the relatives.

I haven't been totally blown away by all Nobbs's recent novels. "Sex and Other Changes" in particular I struggled with. But I felt this was a return to form. It's a thoughtful, funny novel, and an engaging one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tender, touching, often with a smile, and some deeper themes., 24 Oct 2010
By 
R. F. Stevens "richard23491" (Ickenham UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
David Nobbs always delivers the goods. This novel is focused on two young lives, Timothy and Naiomi, and how they interact, or not, across three decades. Themes of faith and morality lie below the tender surface, but a nice eye for ironic detail and the finely drawn characterisation combine to spur one on to finding out what happens next.

I did not laugh out loud (as the blurb might lead one to believe I might), but most of the time I was reading it there was a smile on my face, sufficiently so that the book disappeared for a few days while someone else in the house read it!

I found the ever-present-tense narrative slightly awkward to read, (Damon Runyon did it much better) and I needed to adjust my mind to fit it each time I picked up the book. It is quite long at 420 pages, so for me using this device was a negative point, and it probably doubled the time I would have normally taken to read a novel like this.

It is not really my kind of story, but I enjoyed it even so. I was torn between four and five stars before settling on four, because of the narrative style and it not being as funny as Reggie Perrin, who set the standard for Nobbs' writing.

A solid eight tube-journey's read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny with a hint of sadness, 14 July 2010
By 
A. Skudder (Crawley, West Sussex) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have to start by laying my cards on the table and saying that I have been a fan of David Nobbs since I was a teenager, and read the first Reggie Perrin book. I have ten of his novels on my shelves so I had high hopes when I picked this book up to read it, and was not disappointed; this is one of his best.

There is a crossover between Nobbs' novels and his TV writing with some books adapted for TV, and other being novelisations of TV shows or at least written in parallel, and his writing style does lend itself to the small screen, making him extremely accessible.

But accessible does not mean bland or shallow. Behind the effortless humour there are some big topics and serious points. For example, in this book the subject of religious faith is a major thread of the plot.

All of Nobbs' usual stylistic flourishes are present and correct, including the subtle repetition of otherwise trivial details to make them funny, and the reiteration of particular events of circumstances with slight changes to highlight changes over time.

Many of Nobbs' books lend themselves to sequels, which duly appear, but this is very much a self-contained story, taking place over an extended period. It is about two young lovers who run away for a few nights in London, are forced apart by family and circumstances, and spend the subsequent decades trying to re-connect. Along the way themes like religion, alcoholism and bereavement are all encountered and treated very sensitively without diminishing the overall good humour of the book.

Given the author's history and reputation in TV sit-coms, an interesting strand of the book is the acting career of one of the main characters, who finds herself involved in increasingly dire comedies after starting with shakespearian ambitions. I did find myself wondering if the passages concerning the TV shows were satire, documentary or just a bit of fun at the expense of the television industry.

The key lesson learned from this book: taxidermists do not stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stick with it - it's worth it, 6 Jun 2010
By 
Mrs. J. Jones "janejones" (Chester) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Obstacles to Young Love (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My expectations of this book were coloured by David Nobbs' previous work and I nearly gave up after 50 or so pages without laughing once. However, I stuck with it and was very glad that I did.

Timothy and Naomi are obviously meant for each other but things keep getting in the way - like marriages and children. Starting with their schooldays, the tale twists and turns through 25 years of life in all its rich tapestry. Tragedies are dealt with realistically and sensitively, love and friendship is tested to its very limits and the ending is the only one the reader has been wanting since the first page. The characters are believable and sympathetic, developing over the course of the book and maturing as the years progress. Sniffy Arkwright succeeds in bringing a lump to the throat towards the end, as do both Timothy and Naomi's fathers, and the school friends become adults who grow and change. This is a lovely warm book and it was a shame to put it down when it finished.
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Obstacles to Young Love
Obstacles to Young Love by David Nobbs (Paperback - 10 Jun 2010)
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