Book Review – The Understudy by David Nicholls

11 Aug

I felt that I had to do this review because of the upcoming movie One Da the book of which is by David Nicholls who is also adapting the book for the screen. I read One Day and of course instantly fell in love so I had to see what else he’d written. Most known for his screenwriting, he has done Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Cold Feet and Much Ado about Nothing. He’s written three novels, One Day, Starter for 10 and The Understudy. All of these have had screenplays written for them and Starter for 10 and One Day have both been made into films.

The Understudy is his second novel and is mostly inspired from his times training as an actor. Written in 2005, the novel did quite well both critically and commercially with The Guardian saying that ‘this bitterly funny book is a delightful reminder of how much acting we all do in the name of love.’ The book follows Josh Harper, who has been named the 12th sexiest man in the world is doing a play on the west end. For him, acting is fame. He is in new blockbusters, has a great apartment, and is loved around the world. Stephen McQueen is his understudy who is divorced and his ex now has a new partner and has custody of their kid. For him, acting affords him a bedsit in south east London and general unhappiness. When will his big break come? Maybe this isn’t sounding like the most gripping of books but it’s extraordinarily funny.

One of the things that you will notice about David Nicholls when you read any of his novels is that he is clearly a screenwriter> He has long chunks of dialogue and what’s great about this is there are some really memorable lines. Some lines that will make you laugh out loud and you feel like you can quote from this book like it’s a new episode of Family Guy.

The characters aren’t all likeable but they are incredibly believable. Stephen is someone you sympathise with, cringe at and want to help out. Josh you come to detest but you get caught up in it and as soon as I started this book at an airport I finished it on the flight.

This is one thoroughly enjoyable read and one that you will want to recommend to many of your friends. This book proves how books can be truly funny.

Score: 4/5

2 Responses to “Book Review – The Understudy by David Nicholls”

  1. Palm Trees & Bare Feet September 18, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    Hmmm…speaking of David Nicholls!

    This book sounds good! I’ll have to read it but first, I’ll read “One Day”!

    • aculturedlad September 24, 2011 at 8:05 am #


      He’s an amazing writer! Read One Day first because it is so brilliant!

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