Author spotlight: David Nicholls
I have a lot of authors that I have loved and admired and been waiting very impatiently for a new book to surface. Like most book people I am really missing book signings and lit festivals just to tell authors how much I love their books. Team this up with a love for University Challenge- (my PB is 13 answers - first rounds of course) and enter David Nicholls.
I had the pleasure of asking David a question at Hay Festival in 2019 (interviewed brilliantly by Damian Barr) and then met him at Griffin Books, Penarth a couple of months later. I know his work One Day is a huge hit and I adore it but I want to make a note of celebrating some of his other works too.
So for anyone fancying travelling around Europe with a very dysfunctional, at breaking point family, or taking a nostalgic look at a teenage first love romance or maybe like me you are already suffering University Challenge blues, look no further.
All three of these reads are packed with love, loss, relationships, awkward cringe moments, belly laughs, and are just so so beautifully written.
Starter for 10
We start in 1985, Bristol University. Awkward Brian Jackson comes on the scene a little bit clueless in life, and definitely in love.
An obsession for University Challenge kicks this off and he makes the team. His interest is further peaked by team mate Alice Harbison, the university hottie. She's posh, privileged, and in Brian's world, perfect.
To say Brian is flawed, is quite simply an understatement. His blunders are hilarious, hide behind your book type mistakes and yet cringe-factor "lose 5 points" type behaviour.
David's first novel is a real coming of age, and I love to shout about it. This is purely down to the perfection in which those awkward scenes make you gasp, wince and also shout "nooooo" out loud, at one moment in particular. Cheeky, fun and shocking. If you do so happen to be a fellow University Challenge fan, I nominate you to read this.
Recently made into a BBC adaptation that was cast superbly, and was also pretty in sync with the book, David described it in an interview as a "love letter to Europe" and a "celebration of art."
Douglas and Connie Peterson have been married for a long while and Connie out of nowhere (to Douglas) declares that she wants a divorce. The timing of this isn't helpful as they are due to go on a month long European tour with their son, Albie.
Douglas, keen to get back on track as a perfect family tries to fix the relationships- with both Connie and Albie. Douglas a passionate scientist, can't quite understand his artistic son, almost accidentally excluding himself out of the Connie & Albie joint love- for each other as mother/son and art.
Whilst travel restrictions are in place, this is a brilliant way to sight see or even plan your trip around Europe. It definitely made me want to visit the places featured, especially the museums. But at the heart of this is a family breakdown, love, loss and time have changed the dynamic. I felt the characters were so real, raw, flawed, complex and my perceptions of them changed a few times. A great read that takes you on two family journeys, a physical one and the Peterson's.
This takes us to 1997. A time of a new parliament, a shocking Royal tragedy, and Charlie Lewis. The title taken from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and a beautiful oxymoron, suspect a Shakespeare related story. The newest of David's works released in July 2019, and in my view, the most nostalgic.
Charlie Lewis finished school and is a little bit lost. No real family structure at home with his father, no real outlook on what next either. Enter Fran Fisher and a Shakespeare group of excellent misfits, and a challenge Charlie never thought he'd have to face. Acting. A production of Romeo & Juliet that he gets involved in purely with the view to woo.
The writing in this is so incredibly beautiful, yet doesn't lose David's strength in writing about awkward moments. The leavers party in the school hall at the start is a particular highlight of a wonderfully cringe worthy moment. Yet there is still something so lyrical, and poetic about this that brings out the nostalgia of being sixteen.
Not afraid to tackle serious issues, Charlie's dad is seriously depressed, Charlie's antics at his part time job are an act of desperation also. There is a well thought out blend from the serious, to the way in which the past has been remembered in an almost utopian summer. Great to read at this time of year, and will definitely get you thinking about school days (the good, the cringe and the bad..)
I hope you enjoyed my round-up of David's books. Its worth noting that whilst I've not gone into detail in One Day (I MIGHT still not be over it) and The Understudy (fun and brilliantly messy) I still love them.
Happy Reading. Its goodbye from me, Goodbye...
Bobs and Books.