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Sweet Sorrow: Book summary and reviews of Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

Sweet Sorrow

by David Nicholls

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls X
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2020
    416 pages
    Genre: Romance

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Book Summary

From the best-selling author of One Day comes a bittersweet and brilliantly funny coming-of-age tale about the heart-stopping thrill of first love - and how just one summer can forever change a life.

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 theater 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"As Charlie notes, displaying a growing understanding of Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet '[is] stuffed with anticipation,' and readers will be, too, as Nicholls masterfully unfolds events. The depth of feeling between friends, family members, and lovers, first time or not—Nicholls captures it all. Highly recommended." - Library Journal (starred review)

"With fully fleshed-out characters, terrific dialogue, bountiful humor, and genuinely affecting scenes, this is really the full package of a rewarding, romantic read." - Booklist (starred review)

"While the narrative stakes aren't very high and the plot ambles through some predictable paces, the developing relationship between the two young lovers is charming...An old-fashioned, endearing romance for readers with time to spare." - Kirkus Reviews

"While the story lopes along fairly predictably, Nicholls excels at capturing Charlie's insecurity, the messy exuberance of first love, and the coarseness of teenage male friendships. This doesn't quite reach the heights of Nicholls's previous work, but it is a good deal of fun." - Publishers Weekly

"A beautiful paean to young love...Sweet Sorrow is a book that does what Nicholls does best, sinking the reader deep into a nostalgic memory-scape, pinning the narrative to a love story that manages to be moving without ever tipping over into sentimentality, all of it composed with deftness, intelligence and, most importantly, humour." - Guardian (UK)

"Nicholls' literary talents are impressive...the sense of nostalgia is visceral and intense, almost time-bending." - Sunday Times (UK)

"A compassionate, intelligent look at the raw pain and loneliness of a teenage boy, the everyday miracle of first love and the perennial power of Shakespeare's language." - Spectator (UK)

"[Nicholls] remains one of the most acute chroniclers of England as it is now…and few can rival his grasp of the period's minor-key class signifiers…And of course the novel skips along merrily; the repartee frequently sparkles, the jokes are genuinely funny, walk-on characters are brilliantly sketched into life, and his genuine affection for the main players is evident throughout." - Financial Times (UK)

"David Nicholls' Sweet Sorrow perfectly captures the intensity of first love, the beauty of a chosen family, and the complexity of transforming from a teenager to an adult. These are characters I'll be thinking about for a long time to come." - Jill Santopolo, New York Times bestselling author of The Light We Lost

The information about Sweet Sorrow shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

A beautiful read.
“In the chaos of our family’s self-destruction he had quietly and unassumingly made himself present and though I could hardly recall a conversation that might be considered personal or honest, in the strange, mute semaphore of teenage boys he’d communicated a sense of care and somehow passed on the message to the others, an unspoken command to be, if not kind , then not actively cruel.”

Sweet Sorrow is the fifth novel by British author, David Nicholls. It was mid-1997, school was done, and sixteen-year-old Charlie Lewis was resigned to an unpromising future, waiting for the rest of his life to begin. Meanwhile, there was a long summer to endure, living with his father, Brian, the currently unemployed former owner of a chain of failed record shops. By default, as the older child, Charlie was left to look after his father when his mother left to live with her lover, taking along his sister.

“I knew from science fiction, rather than from Science lessons, that time behaves differently depending on your location, and from a sixteen-year-old’s lower bunk at the end of June in 1997, it moved more slowly than anywhere else in the cosmos.”

Brian Lewis was now often a sad, Mad Dad (chronically, clinically depressed), and sixteen-year-old Charlie was frightened, furious and resentful of the father he’d formerly connected so well with: he went out on his bike as often as possible.

“Boredom was our natural state but loneliness was taboo and so I strained for the air of a loner, a maverick, unknowable and self-contained, riding with no hands. But a great effort is required not to appear lonely when you are alone, happy when you’re not.”

On one of these rides, Charlie found himself quite unintentionally rehearsing Romeo and Juliet with Full Fathom Five Theatre Cooperative on a hint of a possibility of a promise from the lovely Fran Fisher, playing Juliet. It was something he kept meticulously separate from his school mates, whose ridicule could not be borne, but which he eventually realised was enjoyable for more reasons than Fran’s proximity.

Few authors can match Nicholls for portrayal of the kind of hopeless male who might show a bit of promise but ultimately excels in mediocrity: “Not admired but not despised, not adored but not feared; I was not a bully, though I knew a fair few, but did not intervene or place myself between the pack and the victim, because I wasn’t brave either. I neither conformed nor rebelled, collaborated nor resisted; I stayed out of trouble without getting into anything else. Comedy was our great currency and while I was not a class clown, neither was I witless” and “in photos of myself from that time, I’m reminded of those early incarnations of a cartoon character, the prototypes that resemble the later version but are in some way out of proportion, not quite right” are examples.
Nicholls gives the reader a moving tale of first love with a protagonist who will strike a chord with anyone who can remember their teens, can remember agonising over every word, overthinking every gesture. There’s plenty of humour, some of it a little bleak, but also some lump-in-the-throat moments. A beautiful read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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Author Information

David Nicholls Author Biography

Photo: Kristofer Samuelsson

David Nicholls's most recent novel, the New York Times bestseller One Day, has sold over 2 million copies and been translated into thirty-seven languages; he also wrote the screenplay for the 2010 film adaptation starring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway. Trained as an actor before making the switch to writing, Nicholls's previous novels include Starter for Ten (originally published in the U.S. as A Question of Attraction), adapted into a film starring James McAvoy, for which Nicholls also wrote the screenplay; and The Understudy. He continues to write for film and TV as well as writing novels and adapting them for the screen, and has twice been nominated for the BAFTA awards. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

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