Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls #bookreview

Sweet Sorrow David NichollsAbout the book

Now: On the verge of marriage and a fresh start, thirty-eight year old Charlie Lewis finds that he can’t stop thinking about the past, and the events of one particular summer.

Then: Sixteen-year-old Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. He’s failing his classes. At home, he looks after his depressed father—when surely it should be the other way round—and if he thinks about the future at all, it is with a kind of dread.

But when Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope.

In order to spend time with Fran, Charlie must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. He must join the Company. And if the Company sounds like a cult, the truth is even more appalling: The price of hope, it seems, is Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet learned and performed in a theatre troupe over the course of a summer.

Now: Charlie can’t go the altar without coming to terms with his relationship with Fran, his friends, and his former self. Poignant, funny, enchanting, devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life, a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.

My thoughts on Sweet Sorrow

I loved One Day by David Nicholls, a book that stayed with me long after I’d turned the last page. Which means Sweet Sorrow had some huge, book-shaped, boots to fill. I opened it expecting great things. To a degree, I got that – a complex story about first love and the agonies we sometimes go through as teenagers when we don’t feel right in our own skins.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t get was a real connection to the characters, something to keep me staying up late at night turning pages. I liked them. I just didn’t love them. I don’t know if this is because the central character was male, though as I’ve read plenty of other books with male protagonists and loved them, probably not.  I don’t know if was the era – I was starting my life in the early ’90s, not starting my working life, and I struggled to relate to the teenage angst.

More than anything though, I struggled to relate to Fran. Charlie felt real.  I got him, understood why he was such a mess. I didn’t get Fran. I know she was Charlie’s ideal girl, designed to ‘fix’ his life. But by making her so perfect, it made it hard to connect. I felt I was seeing the flaws Charlie wasn’t and it was driving me potty.

The other thing that left me feeling a little adrift was the speed of the story as soon as Charlie’s teenage years came to an end. I felt like I flew through a lot of his life. Again, I get why but it wasn’t what I wanted given I’d put so much time into his teenage angst.  I think I wanted a slighly bigger payoff.

This doesn’t mean it was all bad it wasn’t.  There are moments when I got completely lost in the world David Nicholls created, the pictures he painted. It’s just I didn’t stay in that world from start to finish.  So a good, but not great book, for me.

Emma x

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

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