Starter For Ten Paperback – 19 Jul 2004
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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)
Nicholls' portrayal of student affectations is accurate and funny ... clever and well-written (Independent)
Brilliant... we would recommend it to anyone (Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan)
A funny, touching novel reminiscent of the classic film Gregory's Girl with an authentic 1980s backdrop (Sunday Mirror)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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. :)
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Light warm up to what became One Day.... See full review here....
Brilliantly captured the clumsiness and gaucheness of adolescent university life. Hysterically funny at times...Published 5 days ago by Hurren
Great read, very witty and entertaining. If you're looking for something lighthearted, go with this book! Some amusing characters and something everyone can relate toPublished 3 months ago by Natasha