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The Understudy

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  8,479 ratings  ·  657 reviews
Recently divorced actor Stephen C. McQueen (no relation, unfortunately) seems to have a knack for bad luck. But a failed marriage, a stalled career, a judgmental ex-wife, a distant daughter, a horrid little studio apartment in the far reaches of the London suburbs-all these pathetic elements seem to pale in the chiseled face of his newest tormentor: the Twelfth Sexiest Man ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 30th 2007 by Villard Books (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,479 ratings  ·  657 reviews


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Eddie Owens
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marianne
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 ...more
Godzilla
May 11, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
My wife ordered this, as she enjoyed One Day and Starter for Ten, which I've read, and they were ok.

Perhaps I've got Nicholls fatigue, or it's a backlash to the mainly 4 and 5 stars I've been giving recently, but I found this a chore to read.

The characters are all unsympathetic and the story weak. It's easy to read but instantly forgettable.

The story seemed to run out of steam and even the humour began to pall way before the end of the book.

The ending was meant to be a tenterhook, but I found my
...more
Carrie Hope Fletcher
'For Josh harper, being in show-business means 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's 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 fro ...more
Blandine
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
Sorry, Daily Mail, but The Understudy was not “laugh-out-loud.” Or at least, in my case it wasn’t. But I knew it wouldn’t be. Because Starter For Ten made me, quite literally, laugh out loud like a little mad woman,thus allowing me to believe that David Nicholls’s second book would be a minor disappointment for yours truly. And indeed…

The Understudy is Steve McQueen. Not the famous one, but a British lesser version of him. While Josh Harper, a handsome 29-year-old, has become a superstar adored
...more
James Hartley
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a good, quick, funny, fun read - especially if you´ve ever struggled to make it as an actor, writer, artist or similiar. Although the story often has to give way to the jokes, the jokes are funny, which saves the day.
Gitte - Bookworm's Closet


Light entertainment with some laugh out loud moments. You’re promised a good time with this book – and you’ll get a very untraditional ending.

Stephen has a dream. Since he was a little boy, his biggest wish and ambition for life has been to become a succesful actor. Instead, he plays the parts of 'dead guy #4', a squirrel in a kids' show, and the understudy for a superstar. On top of that, he's divorced from the woman he loves, he cannot connect with his daughter, and lives in a crappy apart
...more
Linda Vismane
"It's important to have ambitions. To find the thing you love doing, and do it to the best of your abilities."
So I started reading this book with basically no expectations at all and I'm glad I did so.
The book didn't disappoint me, however it had some flaws.
Firstly - why do people always think that they can get away with lying? Stupid, stupid, stupid. I think that's the reason why I couldn't identify with the main character, Stephen. He lied so many unnecessary times that by the end I just wan
...more
Ilze Folkmane
David Nicholls has taken an interesting, universally recognisable concept – the feeling of inferiority while pursuing one’s dreams, but in The Understudy it just falls flat, and I blame the characters. I made zero connection with all of them, so any development the characters might have gone through or any epiphany that might have enlightened by the end of the story them just flew right by me.
Jessica
not as funny as the book cover reviewers made it seem
Nele
Jan 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-sale
Meh.

Nice enough but I'm left unimpressed.

Showbizz is a crazy world, full of immature people. Life would also be a lot less complicated if people didn't do drugs and drink alcohol that much...
...more
David Rigano
Jun 12, 2009 rated it liked it
It was enjoyable, but there were so many problems. What kept me going was the story (yes, I did want to find out what happened next) even though I couldn't find a character I really cared about.

I especially wondered how someone as apparently untalented as Stephen Q McQueen got to understudy a lead role on the West End. The portrayal of understudies in this book was really rather insulting. I've seen a number of understudies and I know some personally, and you have to be incredibly talented to un
...more
Tuti
Dec 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i think this was supposed to be a „very funny“ story about an actor, stephen mcqueen („with ph, not the famous one“ etc), the understudy of josh harper, a major west-end star... the (predictable) miseries of life very close to but on the other side of „success and fame“.... the two opposing characters, josh, the successful one and stephen, the failing one - could have been very interesting to look at, especially since the author trained as an actor before turning to writing, and so must know all ...more
Sarah
I wish I could have felt more sympahy for Stephen, but through-out the book he's so delusioned by his future fame, that I just felt bad for him and found him slightly embarrassing. Like when meeting actors from shows he's been on as an extra and thinking they'll recognize him. Like thinking in imaginary headlines about his just-around-the corner success. Like always thinking he's on the path to greatness.
I knew from a few chapters in that this would end in one of two different scenarios. Wasn't
...more
Winona Emery
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t think I have ever laughed out loud so much while reading a book before. Very well done, I got incredibly invested and the ending was just right.
Charlie Hay
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a romantic comedy in book form. A very British romantic comedy which is more awkwardness than romance. It’s a good… 80/20 split in favour of awkwardness. This book can only be compared to the awkward lovechild of Michael Cera and Hugh Grant if they were ever able to take each other’s clothes off which bumbling for 51 straight hours. Stephen C. McQueen is an actor. Better known for playing corpses, Stephen has landed a real theatre job as the understudy of Hollywood heartthrob Josh Harper ...more
Doreen
Nov 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Good solid story-telling. Problem was, I had a hard time feeling sympathy for the narrator, who has a habit of lying whenever he thinks the truth will put him in an unflattering light. Worse, he blames "bad luck" for why he's such a sad sack, and has few redeeming characteristics otherwise. Some of the jokes and set-pieces were entirely too commonplace to be truly funny, and I thought it awfully convenient that he should walk into Number Twelve's dressing room that one scene, thereby finding a r ...more
Susan
May 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
I can't say this was a book I would recommend. It was slow going and I found it all too easy to put aside. The story was plodding and I was never ever thinking I can't wait to get back to find out what happened to Stephen McQueen. I found the characters all too one dimensional and the story all a bit pointless.

It was meant to be a comedy, albeit of the slightly uncomfortable kind but in reality it was just dull. There were elements of slight amusement but hardly " is a scintillating comedy of a
...more
S.T. Hills
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was fun to get into the mind of the actor. I felt for him.
Amandeep
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first time reading a book by this author, but I have to say, I rather enjoyed it. The book was funny for the most part and did make me snigger here and there (although I wouldn’t go far as to say ‘funniest book of the year’). The Understudy was a delight to read and I would for sure recommend it to anyone who loves reading in general.

:)
Poppy Flaxman
Just not the one for me. I usually adore Nicholls work but I just didn't gel with these characters or their motives. There were some moments of brilliance where Nicholls nails scenes of excrutiating embarrassment but generally the novel fell short of my expectations. I guess it's back to rereading Starter for Ten for the umpteenth time for me. ...more
Jigna
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not as charming as I’d hoped it would be. Picked it up because I really loved One Day. Flat and predictable.
Jeimy
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
I should have reviewed this when it was fresher in my mind, but I was underwhelmed by the character and plot.
Jane Withers
Nov 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Easy reading and entertaining .. not laugh out loud for me but it raised a few smiles .
Lucieishima
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Oh....
I am a little disappointed :((((
I would like very much to love this book. I loved all the books the author wrote, but this one is not quite there...:(
Anyways, still a big fan ;)
Jonny Brick
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There's a reason David Nicholls is so successful. The characters feel real, the situations too. A great second novel. ...more
Kirsty Clarke
My third book I've read my David Nicholls, and an enjoyable read. I think he captures the acting industry really well and he develops these really loveable characters and demonstrates his classic witty lines and ability to make really funny and relatable situations. I enjoyed this less than his other books and I'm not quite sure of the reasons why, but perhaps partly due to I found the ending a bit naff and rushed, but again it's not that I think this book is dislikable I just think compared to ...more
Beesummers
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Very easy read and decent plot too
Debbie
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Funny book - moral of the story is you can’t hang around waiting in some else’s shadow.
Katie Brock
This book was not what I expected. I expected it to much more about acting than it was. Instead we just get the sad life of Steve McQueen (no not that one) and the story that he never gets his big break.

Then it comes and he gives it all up!?

Even the romance area was all muddled.

That being said, I do like David Nicholls writing style so found the story easy to read. I sped through it and I'll probably read more by him but this one was good. I enjoyed it but I felt there could be more to it.
...more
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David Nicholls is a British author, screenwriter, and actor. A student of Toynbee Comprehensive school and Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, he Graduated from the University of Bristol having studied English Literature and Drama.

After graduation, he won a scholarship to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, before returning to London in 1991 and finally earning an Equity
...more

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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
168 likes · 62 comments
“Find the thing you love, and do it with all your heart, to the absolute best of your ability, no matter what people say.” 8 likes
“Josh likes to say he put the funk in 'functional'. Personally I think he just put the ass in 'embarrassing', but, hey, what do I know?” 8 likes
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