“Sweet Sorrow” by David Nicholls | Book Review

Book Review | Rating – 4/5 stars | Genre – Romance

I think this book has been one of the quickest transfers from bought to read this year. For someone who doesn’t enjoy spending money, this purchase came during one of my rarer spends, that and my inability to avoid a bookshop when I venture into town. This book had caught my eye a few times over the past few months, mainly through my love of David Nicholls’ first book “One Day”. That might be why I moved round to reading this so quickly, that and the glorious sunshine that we’ve been having this past week just made me want to spend all my time outside reading. So, we’ll move swiftly onto what I thought…

In 1997, Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. His exams have not gone well. At home he is looking after his 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.

Then Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope.

But if Charlie wants to be with Fran, he 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.

Check it out here

What did I think?

When I bought this book, and then quickly selected it as my next read, I had a number of expectations as to what I’d come across in this book. Having read One Day (also by David Nicholls) I was thoroughly anticipating heartbreak, for the characters, and then tears, from myself. Both thankfully, and a little hishearteningly, this did not happen. Instead, what I got was a beautifully written story of a first love.

Although I would’ve been about 3-4 in 1997, when the book was set, it still felt comforting to feel some sense of closeness to the main characters. However, despite their age gap to myself and the differing experiences of the late 90s, they still felt very real and true to what everyone’s first love is like. It was just the right amount of awkward and sexually insecure that I think we can all relate to.

There were only two points that made this book fall short of the full 5 stars for me; the first being that it didn’t make me cry. I’m aware this wasn’t the point of the book, but having held onto the expectation from the very beginning, it was a little disappointing not to have a tear-jerker right at the end. Secondly, there were parts that just made the book a little too long for my liking, this didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment though.

Reasons to read Sweet Sorrow…

  • Relatable Characters: As I said above, Fran and Charlie are both extremely relatable teenagers. David Nicholls does a great job of bringing these characters to life and making you fall in love with them. Charlie has his faults and typical angst towards the world, without being off-putting and annoying, while Fran comes across as adventurous and smart without coming across as the “manic pixie”.
  • Nostalgic: Although it is set in the late 90s, a lot of what the characters go through as they enter young adulthood is still super easy for people nowadays to relate to. I found myself at multiple times in this book, looking back on my own life, seeing how certain parts of the book had happened to me or some of my friends.
  • Brilliant Perspective: It was rather brilliant to see Charlie’s story told from the perspective of his older self. Yes, this did give away some of what would happen to him from the very beginning, yet it still made the story feel warm and fresh to read. It also allowed for the odd self-deprecating joke as older Charlie looked back on what he’d done when he was younger.

At the end of the day…

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of David Nicholls, or just those who, like myself, have only read One Day. It is a wonderful contemporary romance book, that brings you on a journey of nostalgia, as we follow Charlie and Fran through the awkward path of their first love.

There can be moments when the book feels a little slow, stretching the story out a tad, but it is still a great book to read, and very much suited to being read on a sunny evening in the garden, or park.


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