Starter For Ten – David Nicholls

Starter for Ten

Brian Jackson is studying English Literature at university. It is a whole different world to the one he has been accustomed to for eighteen years as he tries to avoid social pitfalls, make new friends, reinvent his image, try not to antagonise the strong-minded Rebecca Epstein, get the girl of his dreams, Alice…all whilst trying to do well academically. It is not an easy task for Brian, who soon focuses his efforts on entering on the university’s team for University Challenge, something that holds significance for him and his father, and something that could hold the key to improving his social status and popularity. If only he could avoid the numerous obstacles that life keeps throwing his way to reach the finals…


Starter For Ten is a hilarious coming-of-age story as Brian stumbles from one misfortune to another, a particular cringeworthy moment is when he meets Alice’s parents. Talking of Alice, his relationship with her seems doomed from the start – you can sense that she isn’t really committed as much as Brian is, and it is a bit weary as Brian acts so obliviously to this when it is obvious that Rebecca is in love with him and has more in common with him. It is only at the end when Brian realises this, and we don’t even read about him making that realisation. David Nicholls captures the awkwardness of those first moments in going to university and trying to fit in against a backdrop of cultural references and political notes from the 1980s, such as the styles and Spencer’s unemployment. Despite the title, the emphasis is more on Brian getting to grips with life and standing on his own two feet, having the courage and conviction to gain what he wants. However, the parts surrounding the quiz are humorous, in particular, quiz freak Patrick’s obsession with winning after his defeat the previous year. The culmination of the University Challenge plot strand was unexpected and made for an unusual ending!


This was a great read but I felt it lacked the emotional punch that One Day had (due to personal preference I think).  The supporting characters in Starter For Ten aren’t given enough description to make them feel real and as though you can connect and sympathise with them. However, I would still recommend this highly.


1 thought on “Starter For Ten – David Nicholls

  1. Pingback: New Book Reviews! « Panda Panda Times

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