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A reader's guide to Starter For Ten

Updated Saturday, 1st July 2006

Set in 1985, this coming of age novel by David Nicholls follows student Brian Jackson's desire to appear on TV's University Challenge.

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Have you ever felt the urge to take part in a TV quiz? Yes? Then you’ll empathize with Brian Jackson, the hero of our Book of the Month for July: Starter for Ten by David Nicholls.

You don’t have to be a fan of University Challenge to enjoy this hilarious first novel, but it helps! It was one of my holiday reads last summer, and it made me laugh out loud time and time again.

Jeremy Paxman Creative commons image Icon  hammersmithandfulham under CC-BY-NC-ND under Creative-Commons license

Starter for Ten is a beautifully constructed piece of writing, with ‘relevant’ starter questions and answers set at the beginning of the chapters. Nicholls sets the scene for this coming-of-age tale in 1985, when Brian arrives at university.

The aspiration to appear with Bamber Gascoigne is not his only dream; soon he is besotted with his teammate, Alice Harbinson (who has ambitions of her own). The period is conjured up brilliantly, and will definitely bring memories flooding back to many readers.

The author’s name may be familiar, because David Nicholls is a successful screen-writer (BAFTA nominated for the third series of Cold Feet, for example). In fact he has written the screenplay for the film version of Starter for Ten, which stars James McAvoy. If you’re a fan of talking books, you may prefer to enjoy the story by simply listening to David Tennant’s reading.

By the way, the current host of University Challenge seems to have given the novel the thumbs-up, as my copy states on the front cover: ‘I laughed a lot,’ Jeremy Paxman. Surely that’s a recommendation in itself!





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