Title: The Understudy

Author: David Nicholls

Date Finished: 14/03/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 3/5 – just average

The Understudy is the 3rd book I have read by David Nicholls, the 1st being One Day, which was a good read, and the 2nd being Starter For Ten, which was disappointing.  Although I gave both Starter For Ten and The Understudy 3/5, Starter For Ten was closer to a 2 and The Understudy was closer to a 4.  It follows the story of Stephen, who is understudying Josh (a dashing, successful actor) and then goes and falls in love with Josh’s wife.  Sound like a generic film?  Well, it read like one too.

The plot was very very average in this book: I was interested in what would happen next, but it was quite predictable and at some points disappointing.  For a book that has on its cover ‘laugh out loud’ and on the back ‘funniest book of the year’, it was not great.  I think I laughed about 3 times in total throughout the book.
The use of the extended metaphor of a play/performance was quite clever but I thought there could have been more as it kind of petered about by halfway through the book.

Now, the characters were a mixed bag.  I cannot stand failing-but-good-hearted-makes-loads-of-mistakes protagonists – they are just annoying.  Why would I want to read a book where the majority of the time is spent moaning about mistakes or bad decisions the main character has made?  He needed to stop whining and sort his life out!  He is hard to sympathise with, as most people would never say/do any of the things he does.
The other characters were quite unrealistic – celebrities who were happy to spend time with the whining understudy.  I don’t think there was really a nice character in this book – they were all either drug-addicts, horrible, alcoholics or mean, which is a shame.

The prose was again, average.  The trying to be funny aspect of some modern male writers like Nicholls and Nick Hornby is rather annoying; every sentence doesn’t have to contain a joke.  Another thing that put me off this book was one of my all time pet hates: It is NOT ACCEPTABLE or grammatically correct to say: ‘I am sat’, ‘I am stood’, ‘I was sat’ or ‘I was stood’!!! It is ‘I am standing/sitting’ etc.  To see this error published in a popular book upsets me as it’s totally unnecessary, even if it’s a common mistake. Using ‘it’s’ for possession is a common mistake, but there would be uproar if that error was published in a book!

In conclusion, this book is ok for maybe a quick holiday read or something similar, but there is nothing more to get out of it.  Don’t be put off reading One Day however, as that is a good read.  This book seems to be designed for a film not a novel which I think put me off the most (or maybe it was just too bland after reading straight Dickens for a good 6 weeks before!).