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The Understudy

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  7,528 ratings  ·  598 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 3.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,528 ratings  ·  598 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
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
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
...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 youve 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. ...more
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
...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
...more
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...
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
...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.
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 ...more
Annabel Grinbergs
Jul 02, 2010 rated it liked it
So this book was a little holiday read that I took with high expectations as a friend said it was good...and it was on the whole!

I applause Nicholls for his writing ability. Despite not overly identifying with the lead character I felt nothing but 'get a grip, u sad sack!' i did think well everyone knows a Stephen, someone just trying to make it but being outshone by another...and hasn't everyone been there. If stephen was Ted from scrubs, Josh was definietly cast as Ashton Kutcher a lovable
...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 ...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
...more
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.

:)
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.
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 ;)
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 .
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.
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.
Beesummers
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Very easy read and decent plot too
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.
Mariam Al Ali
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Just finished the “understudy” novel by David Nicholas..

A very realistic and enjoyable story, though the plot was normal and the sequence of incidents were kinda predictable.. funny in some parts and you’re ought to giggle in some other.. Steve the main character is like most of us; following his dream regardless of all the obstacles that seem like impossible to be achieved.. the ending is open with no clear outcome, and I smiled in spite of that..

Not too sure if I shall recommend it to be read,
...more
Ben Richards
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
Enjoyed this a lot and could really relate to lots of things in the book. As someone just starting out professionally as an actor there were some great moments I did really enjoy as well as a few pitfalls to avoid.
I did feel that there needed to be a film style ‘Josh did...’, ‘Nora was...’ and ‘Stephen then did...’ at the end but it’s ok to imagine that it’s all and happily ever after.
Well worth the read.
Melanie
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For Josh Harper, being an actor means fame and fortune. Not so much for the quite unfortunately named Stephen C. McQueen. He's ready and waiting to jump on his 'Big Break', but the opportunity just never seems to come around.

This book was incredibly easy to read, and I really enjoyed it. I'd tell myself I'd only read a couple chapters before going and doing x, but find myself still there half an hour later. The characters are funny and I particularly like Steve's sense of humour. He, like so
...more
Jennifer
Sep 11, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010

After devouring David Nicholl's latest hit, One Day, I decided to risk backtracking through his catalog and being too familiar with his debut "Starter for Ten" (a great movie if anyone is looking for a hidden gem on Netflix) I went for his sophomore effort, The Understudy.

While the Understudy has its charms I see it as the book Nicholl's needed to write to hone his skills, sharpen his wit and play with various levels of character depth and likability. The lead is a struggling actor who, on the
...more
Abigail Hillinger
May 01, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Maybe it's the books I've been choosing lately, but I'm noticing a common thread between them all: inconsistently weak main characters.

This is my second David Nicholls' book. And with both of his stories, the main character (male) does shady things that end up sorely hurting him in the end...shady things that are transpired, it seems, by their insecurities.

It's kind of hard to read a book where you don't much like the protagonist...unless you're Tom Perrotta, because there's rarely a character
...more
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2,926 followers
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
“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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