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From the bestselling author of STARTER FOR TEN, ONE DAY and US, THE UNDERSTUDY is a scintillating comedy of ambition, celebrity, jealousy and love. For Josh Harper, being in show-business means everything he ever wanted - money, fame, a beautiful wife, and a lead role on the London stage. For Stephen C. McQueen, it means a disastrous career playing passers-by and dead people. Stephen is stuck with an unfortunate name, a hopeless agent, a daughter he barely knows, and a job as understudy to Josh Harper, the 12th Sexiest Man in the World. And when Stephen falls in love with Josh's clever, funny wife Nora, things get even more difficult. But might there yet be a way for Stephen to get his Big Break? THE UNDERSTUDY is a scintillating comedy of ambition, celebrity, jealousy and love.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780340935217
ISBN-10: 0340935219
Format: Paperback
(200mm x 143mm x 27mm)
Pages: 416
Imprint: Hodder Paperback
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 21-Sep-2006
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


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Book Review: Understudy by David Nicholls - Reviewed by (08 Mar 2017)

5 stars

“In all the most intense and intimate experiences of his life, he couldn’t help comparing them with how actors had simulated similar moments: his ecstasy at the birth of his daughter, say, or his grief at the news of the premature death of a schoolfriend, yelping for joy when Alison agreed to marry him, or the smile he’d worn on his wedding day. That’s not to say any of his responses were any less sincere. It was just that, consciously or otherwise, he was always comparing his behaviour with how he had seen actors respond, hoping that it might somehow match up. Life seemed to be at its best, its truest and most intense when it resembled life as simulated on screen: full of jump cuts and slow motion, snappy exit lines and gentle fades to black”

The Understudy is the second novel by British author, screen writer and actor, David Nicholls. Stephen C. McQueen is an actor. Not a famous one, unless you count his performance as Sammy the Squirrel. Stephen has two CVs: the one he shows people; and the one in his head, set in that parallel universe where he gets his big break and everything works out. When he’s trying to impress his ex-wife and his daughter Sophie, he’s inclined to bend the truth a bit…..

At the moment, he’s the understudy for Josh Harper, playing Lord Byron in Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know. Josh, the 12th sexiest Man in the World, has a stellar career and a beautiful wife, Nora, although he blames his bad behaviour on insecurity, addiction to sex and low self-esteem. Stephen’s only chance for a Big Break is if something happens to Josh.

When Stephen meets Nora Harper, something clicks. They get on, and she makes him “feel smarter and funnier, more complicated, less shabby and mundane than he suspected he really was. She made him feel well cast, and in a central role too, rather than the understudy of some phantom other self”. Yep, he’s fallen in love.

Nicholls gives readers a wholly believable plot that will have them laughing out loud, wincing and shaking their heads at the antics of his protagonist. His characters are very humanly flawed and the behaviour of many is less than admirable. As Stephen wavers between the chance of his Big Break and the chance of love, he will strike the reader as staggeringly naïve, disappointingly selfish, heartbreakingly earnest and unbelievably stupid. And yet, we want him to succeed.

This one is a slow burn: Nicholls takes his time setting his scene and fleshing out his characters, and patience is rewarded with some beautiful descriptive prose, some excellent sitcom and a heartwarming ending. Recommended.

Author Biography - David Nicholls

Galaxy Book Award-winner (ONE DAY), Richard & Judy bestseller (STARTER FOR TEN), BAFTA Award nominee (GREAT EXPECTATIONS) and now Man Booker Longlisted (US) author David Nicholls trained as an actor before making the switch to writing. As well as his multimillion-copy bestselling novels STARTER FOR TEN, THE UNDERSTUDY and ONE DAY, David is a scriptwriter whose credits include the TV series Cold Feet, Rescue Me, I Saw You, the TV movies The 7:39 and Aftersun, and screenplays for Far From the Madding Crowd, Great Expectations, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and When Did You Last See Your Father? He has also written the screenplays for the film adaptations of his own novels, STARTER FOR TEN (2006) which starred James McAvoy, ONE DAY (2010), starring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway, and the forthcoming THE UNDERSTUDY (release TBC).

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Us by David Nicholls


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Bookshop by David Nicholls

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God and Government in an 'Age of Reason' by David Nicholls

God and Government in an 'Age of Reason'

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Macmillan Readers: One Day by David Nicholls

Macmillan Readers: One Day

Paperback, November 2011