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Starter For Ten - David Nicholls
Member Name: katyj10
Starter For Ten - David Nicholls
Advantages: Funny and compelling read
Disadvantages: I wanted more!
This is a review of the 2003 book 'Starter for Ten' by David Nicholls who is well known for his book which became a big box office film 'One Day'. Starter for Ten has many parallels with One Day, mainly that the book takes place at University (OK so One Day started with graduation but never mind that!).
What's it about
The book follows Brian from his last days at home to his first days at university. Set in the 80s it is a nostalgic read with many music references but Brian is a Kate Bush fan so there is a lot in there. Whilst Brian is aware of his shortcomings (bad skin, bad hair, hailing from a lowly background, unpopular, and a bit of a general loser) it doesn't stop him from falling for the most sought after, prettiest girl at Uni and in his quest for love ends up stalking her around the campus. The book title gives away the main theme of the book, in that Brian's a huge fan of the TV show University Challenge and it is his dream to appear on the show one day. He auditions for the university team and scrapes a place alongside the lovely Alice and the book plots his journey from there to the filming of the show.
I really enjoyed reading this, being a huge Adrian Mole fan, Brian definitely had some 'Moleist' traits and really did put his foot in it a lot with people. He's a blagger too, knowing that he waffles on in seminars without meaning, talking about books he hasn't read and quoting bits of Shakespeare in an attempt to impress his peers and tutors. I had a bit of a vague feeling that this book was ringing bells in my mind and sure enough when I logged the read, I had actually read it back in 2005 which is a bit embarrassing as I can't really recall the plot and definitely got something else from the book this time of reading.
Although the book is entirely narrated by the main protagonist Brian, each chapter starts with a University Challenge style question. The answer reflects the content of the forthcoming chapter so you can sometimes guess when things are not going to go his way. This made for a nice break in between reading and whilst the questions were definitely not so difficult as the TV show I still enjoyed trying not to see the answer and have a stab at them!
Aside from the obvious love and romantic theme, there was a lot of other areas covered by the book. Brian lost his dad when he was a youngster and there is a lot of hurt there and a great divide between him and his mum. He ends up going home for Christmas and Easter breaks only and staying at Uni In between much to the disappointment of his school friends from home. Friendship is also a good one to mention as Brian is a bit embarrassed of his loutish friends and is horrified when one turns up on the doorstep of his digs expecting a friendly welcome. His friends mock Brian for being scholarly and are really tickled when they find out he's going to be on telly.
I really had to laugh out loud when Brian goes in to the town centre on a new year's resolution to get fit. He's on a small student budget but parts with his Christmas money to buy a set of weights to train with in his room. Then he realises he has to walk a few miles home including a steep hill and suddenly the weights seem like not such a good idea! This part had me in stitches.
It comes a bit late to Brian but at 19 years old this really is a coming of age novel. Whilst Brian is a total loser and his attempts at fashion with granddad collared shirts and round specs and a Brideshead hair cut fail miserably, there must be something there about him as the women do suffer through his bad jokes and nervous chit chat and a relationship is on the cards a few times in the book. I read this book in just over 24 hours and tore through it, enjoying it hugely. It helped that I was a bit poorly so took to bed for a while but it wasn't a ruse to read, I promise! I can highly recommend this book and think if you enjoyed 'One Day' you will almost certainly enjoy 'Starter for Ten'.
Summary: Great book, very recommended