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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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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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on 17 February 2006
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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on 27 October 2004
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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on 24 September 2003
I am the perfect demographic for this novel, went to uni in 85, chased posh gels without success, didn't fit in with the upper middle class. I bought this book on spec because I was bored, thought it might pass a few hours.
I expected it to be cringeworthy and rather lame. The reviews went on about hilarity and snorting with laughter. Who are these people, why are they laughing so much?
Nicholls's novel could have got bogged down in 80s references, trivia and cheap jokes but actually is rather poignant and quite moving. The dinner date scene early on is a great example where out of a potentially comically absurd situation he creates a air of some sadness and anger.
Essentially what I am saying is that this novel is a lot more serious than we have been led to believe. It is not really Hornbyesque but does capture humour and sadness in a similar way to High Fidelity.
Its rare that this kind of 'shick-lit for lads' actually works. I soon forgot the references, parallels with my own experience and the setting of the novel - the characters and their stories overtook them.
In the end it was a satisfying read, if you like Hornby or O'Farrell give it a try.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 October 2014
This is a light and easy read but I could never quite get a handle on our narrator Brian Jackson: loveable nerd who we’re rooting for or a more satirical portrait of an acne-covered, self-obsessed, intellectual snob?

Following Brian through his first year at university makes this fun, and there are some moments which reveal hidden emotional depths: the coming to grips with his friends left behind at home, and his relationship with his mother.

But overall this feels a bit fragmented as if Nicholls himself is never quite clear what the story is or where it is going: Brian lurches from oozing oil and sweat from his facial acne (eek!) and making the kinds of jokes that have us shuddering in embarrassment on his behalf to snogging gorgeous girls and I found it difficult to reconcile the two.

So not a book to be taken too seriously: much of the comedy based on self-important 18 years olds is spot on making this enjoyably lightweight.
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Having been on my list for some time, I have finally read 'Starter For Ten' and it really does stand up to all the hype. Very well constructed with suberb characterisation - you can immediately empathise with the central character's (Brian) view of 80's life. This hit all the right notes for me as I too attended University in the 80's with the same passion for Granddad shirts and donkey jackets (although not Kate Bush - though I knew people who did). The story takes you along comfortably ( and squirming at times,i.e. the unrequited love) to what you think will be a copybook ending - but life is not like that and neither is this book.
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on 18 April 2011
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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on 6 May 2015
This is a wonderfully comic tale full of verbal wit and hilarious turns of phrase which, in context, have one laughing out loud. Anyone who loves the music of words and responds to their cultural connotations will enjoy this book. There ARE problems, but the book still deserves my four stars.
First, the narrative is written in formal English throughout except for the oddity - mentioned by an earlier reviewer - of insisting on the ugly 'Yorkshire' present participle for two verbs (' she was stood/sat'). Exactly the same exception is made in the autobiographical works of Alan Bennett.
Secondly, there are - pace again another reviewer - a number of moments when it is just not clear what has happened or what is going on. It is not clear, for example, whether Spencer is gay or bisexual.
Thirdly, this and other books so far read by me by this author are militantly heterosexual in an exclusionary way - exactly like the works of Alan Ayckbourn (but two generations younger!). This also involves some unpleasant if mild homophobia.
It is worth concluding by insisting that the novel is not meant to be naturalistic a la Zola; the characters are (very cleverly constructed) stereotypes who exist in a series of relationships almost none of which could possibly be sustained in the real world. This is not a weakness, but it will - and has - upset some readers who believe verisimilitude is indispensable.
There are a few dull patches, but the high points are well worth anybody's time and money.
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on 17 May 2015
This is the story of an obviously clever but socially inept boy (Brian) who gets to university and the story of his first year there. I really liked the book, but personally I didn't think that it lived up to it's billing as having lots of laugh out loud moments. I know that everyone's sense of humour is different, but I felt sorry for Brian in most of the situations he finishes up in, rather than finding them hilarious. If you love seeing people humiliate themselves on stage with a hypnotist, then you will find this very funny, if not you can just enjoy it as a great story.
At first I thought that I wasn't going to like this book, but I persevered and after about the first third, it really came alive for me, as some of Brian's background is explained. The characters are well developed, and very representative of the types found at University, the period (the eighties) is well represented, but not stuffed down your throat, so it is actually quite a timeless story. Overall I really enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it.
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on 1 November 2014
Like many others I've read "One day" and enjoyed it. I picked this one up when I noticed it was free (incidentally, at the time of writing this review it is still free ...) I'm actually quite glad I didn't pay for it, as it's distinctly mediocre.

I've given it 3 stars, but I think that's perhaps a little overgenerous. Let's say 2.5 / 5 is more realistic. So what were my issues?

- The main character is a caricature of uselessness. Any possible social-flaw you could think of is assigned to the poor chap. It reminds me of when I stopped watching friends because the situations became embarrassing rather than I-can-relate-to-that funny. (In the case of friends it was when Ross hid in a dates bathroom and squirted all her creams and lotions into his leather trousers in an attempt to get them back on again - truly cringe-worthy, and not in a good/humerous way).

- His friends - Tone and Spence - seem to exist only to drive a single plot point (and then not really anything that added much to the main story-line).

- It was blindingly obvious where it would all end up from the get-go.

- The ending, well, wasn't. It felt like he'd got bored with it all and decided to wrap it up, "epilogue style" in the form of a letter written in 6 months time. This just felt like a huge cop out.

On the plus side, there are a number of amusing parts which anybody that went to uni in the 80s/90s will probably recognise, and the whole thing is a very quick read.
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