Originally published: 11 Jul 2019
Author: David Nicholls
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Length: 416 pages
Reading dates: 16-21 July 2019
I would I were thy bird.
Sweet, so would I:
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
I have a little story to tell about Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls. In June I was having major blogging envy as lots of my blogger friends were receiving proof copies of this book. I’ve read and enjoyed everything David Nicholls has written (my first bookstagram post on Instagram was coincidentally Us which I read in May 2015.) Anyway one night I dreamt that one of these coveted proofs turned up for me and when I woke up the next morning and realised it wasn’t true, I was so disappointed. So I told the world on Twitter how disappointed I was and then David Nicholls himself got in touch to offer me a finished copy. And not only that, but it arrived on my birthday!
So I was a little nervous as I was worried I wouldn’t love it and all that fuss would have been for nothing. But I finished it today and I absolutely adored it!
Set in the mid 1990s in a small and uninteresting town in southeast England, we meet 16 year old Charlie Lewis, on his last day at school. He describes himself as the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. His exams have gone badly and his parent’s marriage has fallen apart. He is left living with his dad, whom he mostly tries to avoid. He has a group of friends – Harper, Fox and Lloyd who spend their time winding each other up, farting in each others faces and drinking as much as possible.
Once he has finished school, he finds he is at a lost end. He has a part time job in a garage but mostly spends the beginning of the summer riding around on his bike, trying to master the art of being alone without looking lonely. It is on one of these rides that he comes across the Full Fathom Five Theatre Co-operative in the grounds of an old country house where he meets and falls for Fran Fisher. In order to become close to her, he ends up agreeing to take part in their production of Romeo and Juliet and despite having no acting experience or aspirations, he ends up with the part of Benvolio. Keeping his involvement secret from his friends and family, Charlie soon starts to enjoy his involvement as he and Fran become closer.
Told retrospectively from Charlie’s point of view, this was so full of nostalgia for me. I’m probably about 10 years older than Charlie is in this book, but things were pretty similar for me growing up – a time before mobile phones and TV streaming services. Summers that went on forever – that time when I felt grown up and ready for independence.
I adored this book – it was so believable. Funny and poignant, it was just beautifully written and is a true coming-of-age novel. A story of first love and the struggles of family, friendship and growing up when you haven’t decided the path you want to take. I especially loved Fran – she was funny and strong and I found Charlie’s and her relationship really romantic, yet honest. I was truly sorry to see the story end – I can feel a massive book hangover coming on. David Nicholls is a fantastic writer and I urge you to go and buy this book!
Many thanks to David Nicholls and Hodder & Stoughton for my copy.
About the author:
David Nicholls is a British author, screenwriter, and actor. A student of Toynbee Comprehensive school and Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, he graduated from the University of Bristol having studied English Literature and Drama.
After graduation, he won a scholarship to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, before returning to London in 1991 and finally earning an Equity card. He worked sporadically as an actor for the next eight years, eventually earning a three year stint at the Royal National Theatre, followed by a job at BBC Radio Drama as a script reader/researcher. This led to script-editing jobs at London Weekend Television and Tiger Aspect Productions.
During this period, he began to write, developing an adaptation of Sam Shepard’s stage-play Simpatico with the director Matthew Warchus, an old friend from University. He also wrote his first original script, a situation comedy about frustrated waiters, Waiting, which was later optioned by the BBC.
Simpatico was turned into a feature film in 1999, and this allowed David to start writing full-time. He has been twice nominated for BAFTA awards and his first novel, Starter for Ten was featured on the first Richard and Judy Book Club.