The first time I read David Nicholls’s One Day, I fell in love. I could not stop reading until the last sentence, there was tears in my eyes and my heart was beating at a manic pace. It was a sad day when I finished One Day, I needed more! It has taken about a year (this thing called life keeps getting in the way) but I have managed to finely get a copy of another one of David Nicholls’ masterpieces, The Understudy.
The story follows Stephen C. McQueen, an aspiring actor who is waiting for his chance in the spotlight. Problem is he has been waiting for years which has caused his marriage to crumble into divorce and has forced him live in a small studio apartment where he watches old classic films on the projector, dreaming he will one day be a star. Stephen always ends up playing minor roles in TV shows and plays, parts such as Dead Guy and Ghostly Figure. His latest job is an understudy to the famous actor Josh Harper. Stephen soon enters Josh’s world where booze and one night stands are on the menu but all Stephen has eyes for is Nora, Josh’s wife. The two quickly form a strong friendship but Stephen soon becomes piggy in the middle being forced to lie to Nora about Josh’s dirty little secrets.
I really felt for Stephen, he has lost everything he holds dear, his wife, his daughter, any real chance of making it big and so on. A dark gloomy cloud of depression and despair follows him around daily and he is often caught without an umbrella. I really wanted him to succeed in everything he did. I wanted Josh to fall down the stairs so Stephen could get his big break, for Nora to confess her undying love to him. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy; he is just mired in bad luck. The scene where he turns up to Josh’s party and thinks he has been invited as a friend only to discover he is being paid to serve drinks made me cringe with embarrassment for him. He’s extremely lonely and thought for once that someone wanted to spend time with him. I think we can all relate to that, wanting to make friends and impress people only to be let down and made to feel a little foolish.
Overall I enjoyed every single page of The Understudy. David Nicholls has a talent for writing underdog characters and making the reader able to relate to them emotionally. I found it extremely hard to put his books down, once I start reading I want to read until the end. I enjoyed the ending, I thought it fitted perfectly. It left me hopeful for Stephen that things will work after all the pain and loneliness he has suffered, that he can start again and maybe this time he will get it right.
Next book on my reading list is Billy And Me By Giovanna Fletcher.