Review: Starter For 10
Author: David Nicholls
By Rhys Tarling
Starter for 10 is the debut novel of English Screenwriter and former actor, David Nicholls. The plot follows Brian Jackson, a first year university student with an ambition – to make it onto the hit television quiz show “University Challenge.” Brian tentatively attempts to romance a fellow first year student, the beautiful Alice Harbinson, but he may have more in common with abrasive and Marxist law student Rebecca Epstein.
We’re following 480 pages of story strictly through the eyes of 18 year old Brian Jackson, so it had better be compelling stuff. Thankfully, that is the case – Brian is by turns intelligent, woefully inexperienced, self conscious yet utterly not self aware, and irredeemably naïve. He’s a dexterous creation of a character who will have the reader both cringing at his ridiculousness and cheering at his somewhat backward attempts ‘To Be Better.’
The story is set in a 1985 Britain, and is naturally drenched in issues concerning the social classes, but is universal in its themes too – Brian is torn by his desire to remain friends with his working class mates, and reinventing himself as someone cool and classy, someone his crush, the rich and beautiful Alice Harbinson, could fall for.
Despite the rom com/screwball comedy vibe, this novel aims for a certain ruthless psychological realism. Most people who have been through, or are going through, their first year of university can find something about Brian Jackson to relate to.
Starter for 10 is a wonderful and honest debut by a novelist who has only gotten better with each work.