Tag Archive: Nicholls

The Understudy – David Nicholls

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!).


Every week, The Broke and The Bookish poses a category for book bloggers to post their ‘Top Ten’ in that week’s category.

This week the category is ‘Top Ten Favourite Covers’, with the advice to be ‘as specific or general as you want‘. Therefore I have decided to post my top ten covers of books that I currently own (not in any order – that would be too difficult!)  The covers here are the versions that I actually own.

1. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë (Vintage Classics).  The Vintage Classics series is known for stunning covers – ‘jacket design is integral to our vintage classics’ and each book in the series has a pertinent and beautiful cover.  I love the way they hint at something in the book’s plot, like the key signifying the locked up secret in Jane Eyre.

2. Saraswati Park – Anjali Joseph (Fourth Estate).  Unfortunately, the best part of this book was actually the cover as the story was rather disappointing! However, the cover is very well designed and a pleasure to look at – one of those books you are very careful with, as you don’t want to damage or spoil it!

3. The Man In The High Castle – Philip K. Dick (Penguin Modern Classics).  Again, a book that I didn’t particularly enjoy (although it is very unique) but a cover that I will never forget.  The reason it made this list is because of how shocking the cover is – it immediately perplexes you and really gets your mind thinking.  I did have to be a bit careful as to where I was reading it though!

4. 1984 – George Orwell (Penguin).  This is such an iconic book and the cover is striking and memorable too – both in the book and on the cover you can’t get away from the idea that ‘big brother is watching you‘!

5. The Number 1. Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith (Abacus).  This series are possibly THE books I most enjoy reading, on account of their being so funny, interesting and cheerful.  Lovely happy, bright covers which perfectly match the books they are surrounding.

6. Matilda – Roald Dahl (Puffin Modern Classics).  I have always loved Roald Dahl’s books, especially Matilda and The Witches and I have chosen the cover of Matilda for this list.  My version is very pink, but has a large illustration of Matilda by Quentin Blake on the front.  I think Roald Dahl’s words and Quentin Blake’s illustrations and both just as important for these childhood books so that is why this cover is so important to me.

7. The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo – Stieg Larsson (Quercus).  This book is one of my favourites and the whole series keeps me reading through the night.  I especially like this cover of the first book because it shows Noomi Rapace (who plays Lisbeth in the Swedish films) who I think portrays Lisbeth perfectly.

8. Northern Lights – Philip Pullman (Point).  I love the original (back in my day blah blah…) covers of the His Dark Materials Trilogy and I think Northern Lights is my favourite of the three, probably because my favourite colour is blue and that is the main background of this one!!

9. One Day – David Nicholls (Hodder).  There is so much to love about the cover of this book: its design is unique, the orange is amazing, the actual feel of the book is great … I could go on.  A great book with a really novel idea and a really novel cover to match.

10. Emma – Jane Austen (Vintage Classics).  I started this list with a Vintage Classic and I’m ending it with one too; rather appropriately, I think, because in my opinion this series of classics has the best covers that I have come across and they are always the ones that catch my eye when I’m browsing in bookshops.