Posted by: Ele Quigan | June 8, 2010

‘Starter for 10’, David Nicholls

Kierkegaard’s narrative. I know it. it’s basically ‘dick-lit’ – chick lit for men. Before you get all offended, let me explain…

In general, it runs as follows: An aimless young man drifts through life, obsessed with aesthetics, and seeking sexual fulfillment many women, yet never making real commitments to any of them. The climax of the story is the protagonist’s decision to commit to a single woman, and potentially to enter into marriage. Or as far as I see it, end all happy ever after.

Tony Parsons uses it. Nick Hornby uses it both excellent british writers – but wow, what a disappointment this was.

Yes first year uni changes you. You make new friends, you hope for new loves and aspire to have a new life. You leave people behind, make new choices – sometimes difficult ones. You try new things, have new experiences – but bloody hell it’s usually pretty interesting though right?

This book managed to make first year uni sound like a complete drag. Boring. Non-completeable.

Based around the premise of that wonderful english institution ‘University Challenge’ (if you’ve never seen it – there are loads of episodes on YouTube in all it’s glory.) I once got 4 questions right in an episode – which value higher than 8 on the trot while watching ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ – but I digress…

Young man meets hot girl, hot girl joins university challenge team, boy joins to impress her. Nothing interesting ensues.

After the gloriousness of ‘One Day’ I was expecting complex characters, multi-layered humour, dark moments and lighter celebrations, but there was none of that within this. The protagonist annoyed me to the point where I was hoping there was no happy ending, that the love-interest female found her roots in some kind of lovely lesbian romp, leaving the protagonist distraught and hating women forever.

It’s one dimensional, with any smidge of deeper plot quashed in happy-go-luckyness. It’s almost like the topics of abortion, mums new boyfriend, and dads death are given their single sentence to show some sense of emotional intelligence and attempt somehing more complex – but that’s just it – it’s only ever an attempt, and a fairly pathetic one at that.

There is also one final crime that the publisher committed in releasing this terrible novel.

The font.

I have a pet hate of books that use too large type to bulk out the number of pages. I’m sure it was at least 12pt – ridiculous. I’d rather a slim novella rather than a book that has large type to make it look like a real novel while you’re sitting on tube/bus. Believe me, I am judging you, if I look over your shoulder to check out what you’re reading and catch a glimpse of 12 pt gill sans…

I guess a few people liked this novel, but it just wasn’t for me, I far prefer a dose of the wonderfully sarcastic and often dark Nick Hornby to satisfy my ‘dick lit’ needs.


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