Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

Remember that school summer holiday feeling when possibilities seemed endless? Nicholls perfectly captures this in Sweet Sorrow. In this story we meet Charlie, just after he finishes his exams, he knows he screwed up in them. September feels a long way away but with everyone having plans to go to college, Charlies feels isolated and alone.

A chance encounter with Fran in a field leads to a summer of romance and new possibilities. Charlie has never acted before but a small part in a Romeo and Juliet play seems like a good idea to win the heart and number (!!) of the girl he’s now besotted with.

Surrounded by a new group of friends and a purpose for the next few weeks, Charlie distances himself from his old friends and his family, and who can blame him?

I was deeply moved by Charlie’s story, his life has not been easy over the past year and my heart was really tugged by the sense of independence that was thrown on Charlie, when he needed his parents the most. I thought the way David captures the changing family dynamics was incredibly moving and it’s not until Charlie is much older and confides in Niamh; his fiancée, that he can truly accept the emotional toll that both his parents had placed on him that year.

The use of a Shakespearean play in the story allowed me to play a game of “parallels” between the actors and the parts, and I did feel the wonderful magical nerves of it all coming together.

When I look back on this book, words like “sweet”, “charming” and “nostalgic” pop into my head, and these are all true – the book does take you on a journey down memory lane to relish in the power of first love; but after a few minutes of reflection you raise how much deeper this story is. For this reason, I wasn’t surprised by the resentment that grew in Charlie over the years.

I felt the book started slow but half-way through, I was heavily invested in seeing how this story would end. As a whole, I liked the book, but I wasn’t blown away by it. I am a fan of “coming of age” books but I just didn’t feel overly invested in the plot all the time, and found it easy to put down for a few hours. What I will say is: I love David’s writing style – it is beautifully atmospheric, detailed and also has a subtle touch of humor. I would definitely try another book by him.

Sweet Sorrow is out now in hardback and eBook versions from Hodder & Stoughton.

Until next time, Chloé x

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