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Sweet Sorrow

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One life-changing summer
Charlie meets Fran...

In 1997, Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don't remember in the school photograph. His exams have not gone well. At home he is looking after his father, when surely it should be the other way round, and if he thinks about the future at all, it is with a kind of dread.

Then Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope.

But if Charlie wants to be with Fran, he must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. He must join the Company. And if the Company sounds like a cult, the truth is even more appalling.

The price of hope, it seems, is Shakespeare.

Poignant, funny, enchanting, devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life, a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.

405 pages, Paperback

First published July 9, 2019

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About the author

David Nicholls

23 books3,705 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 card. He worked sporadically as an actor for the next eight years, eventually earning a three year stint at the Royal National Theatre, followed by a job at BBC Radio Drama as a script reader/researcher. This led to script-editing jobs at London Weekend Television and Tiger Aspect Productions.

During this period, he began to write, developing an adaptation of Sam Shepard’s stage-play Simpatico with the director Matthew Warchus, an old friend from University. He also wrote his first original script, a situation comedy about frustrated waiters, Waiting, which was later optioned by the BBC.

Simpatico was turned into a feature film in 1999, and this allowed David to start writing full-time. He has been twice nominated for BAFTA awards and his first novel, Starter for Ten was featured on the first Richard and Judy Book Club.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,622 reviews
Profile Image for Richard (on hiatus).
160 reviews176 followers
September 30, 2020
David Nicholls, the Booker nominated author and screenwriter, in Sweet Sorrow, has written a tender, realistic and very funny story about the trauma of first love.
Charlie is a typical 16 year old, leaving the school gates for the last time, blinking uncertainly in the hard light of the big world outside.
He has the odd flash of wit and is moderately good looking but Charlie is pretty ordinary in most respects - mucking about with his mates, full of bravado, messily experimenting with alchohol and dreaming about girls and sex.
He’s also, unsuccessfully, trying to navigate a very sad and chaotic home life.
Fran is from a posh school, she’s intelligent, mature, arty and lovely.
Surely out of Charlie’s league.
They meet by chance and Charlie finds himself, improbably and mortifyingly involved in an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet, in which Fran is playing Juliet.
In the course of one hot summer we experience the floating euphoria and queasy disasters of a first love affair.
A novel written by a favourite author of mine, from a male perspective and set in a Home Counties type setting (like my own) was always going to inspire some unsettling recognition. Although all stories of first relationships are very different and this tale is set in the late 1990’s, well after my own teenage years, some of the scenes still felt as familiar as dejavu.
My only question mark is that some of the repartee between the main characters is so incisive and beautifully witty that it seems unlikely it could come from a 16 year old mind.
If that’s unfair, I’m very jealous :)
I guess there’s nothing massively ground breaking about Sweet Sorrow but it really did move me, make me laugh, make me quote lines to my wife and it did linger in my mind long after finishing it.
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
474 reviews573 followers
September 2, 2019
I remember the last time I bought a David Nicholls novel. I brought Us to the counter and the woman at the till said: "Oh! Do men read him too?" I wasn't quite sure what to make of that. Maybe it's down to the fact that One Day, Nicholls' biggest hit, has a sweeping romance at its core and therefore his work is unsuitable for us fellas. I suppose I should have purchased the latest Bear Grylls Survival Guide instead.

Well I'm a David Nicholls fan and I'm not ashamed to admit it. He writes so perceptively about family and relationships, and his dialogue is always sharp and funny. Sweet Sorrow continues with this winning formula. The story is set in the summer of 1997, in a small Sussex town. School has just finished and sixteen-year-old Charlie Lewis is at a loose end. His parents have recently split up and his Dad is depressed, so he can't bear to spend any time around the house. On a bike ride one afternoon, he stumbles upon an amateur acting troupe who are preparing to stage a production of Romeo and Juliet in a few weeks time. They beg Charlie to join them but he thinks it's just for wimps and nerds (plus he's afraid of being ridiculed by his mates). However, the luminous Fran Fisher catches his eye and he decides to go along for one day just to see if he can ask her out. So begins a unforgettable summer in Charlie's life, one that he will often think about even as he advances into middle age.

Charlie might give the impression that he's carefree, but he's a worrier. He's terrified that he'll come home some evening to find his father passed out on the floor after an overdose, and this broke my heart. He shouldn't have to think about things like that at his age. At least when he's when up to no good with his friends or chasing girls it distracts him for a while. His description of his first kiss made me laugh:
"I had never been more aware that the tongue was a muscle, a powerful skinless muscle like the arm of a starfish, and when my tongue tried to fight back against Sharon’s they had wrestled like drunks trying to squeeze past each other in a corridor."
Charlie had been down in the down in the dumps at the start of the summer, unsure of his future, but the unexpected possibility of a romance with Fran gives him hope, and a completely new outlook on life:
"If I could be with Fran Fisher, if she could somehow accept me and all my past faults, all the squalor and weirdness and worry, then in turn I would become a better version of myself, a version so excellent and exemplary that it was practically new. I had not been the person I wanted to be, but there was no reason why this couldn’t change."

Maybe the story is a bit too familiar for me to give it the full five stars. But you don't really read David Nicholls for the cliffhangers or the surprise twists. You read him for the humour, for the special insight into love and relationships, for the warm glow you feel in the presence of his wonderful characters. I'll be first in line for his next novel and the bookseller can mock me all she wants.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
670 reviews1,026 followers
May 22, 2020
Bittersweet. 💖

I enjoyed this most recent book by David Nicholls, I loved One Day and so was feeling pretty confident.

Charlie lives in a small town in Surrey (or Sussex) not far from London, but far enough away. He’s just completed his GCSE exams and now faces the endless summer.

He is a typical average teenage boy, his friends are dicks but he never stands up to them. His father has severe depression since Charlie’s mother left them and he tries to spend as little time at home as possible.

While exploring on his bike, Charlie comes across a huge old house surrounded by fields. Here he meets Fran for the first time. He is entranced by her - when he asks her to go for coffee, she says only if he joins the summer club she is in.

And so begins Charlie’s summer within an amateur dramatics society putting on a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Through this he learns more about himself and about other people and of course, forms a powerful relationship with Fran.

It’s pretty angsty, lots of teenage drama, but also a lot of darker issues are dealt with. We know what happens in the end as this is future Charlie retelling this story - but it is still enjoyable to read and see how everything pans out. Sweet Sorrow is a very apt name.

Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,502 reviews24.5k followers
December 23, 2019
David Nicholls writes a sweet, nostalgic coming of age story of first love, a heady affair composed of teenage angst, insecurities, fear, jealousies, fraught emotions and all the mass of confusion that besets the teenage soul at the tender age of sixteen. In the present, Charlie is preparing to get married, but can't help looking back to 1997, school had broken, aware he has not done well in his exams, an endless summer lies in front of him, unsure of what the future holds for him but feeling that desperate sense of dread. His mother has left his depressed and unemployed father for another man, leaving Charlie with the responsibility of caring for him. He works at a petrol station where he runs a scam, socialising with his gang of three male friends. Charlie bumps into Fran Fisher, falling for her, but there is a fly in the ointment.

The only way he can get to know her is to take part in the theatre company's production of Romeo and Juliet, playing Benvolio to Fran's Juliet. This is not a picture of himself that sits easily with him, but for love, he is prepared to make a fool of himself, whilst keeping his participation a secret to avoid becoming a laughing stock amongst his friends. As Fran coaches him, a relationship develops between the two. This is lovely, if over familiar storytelling, an enjoyable read but not one that imprints itself enough to be memorable. However, I am sure many other readers will love it. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,493 followers
August 26, 2022
Wow. I am an absolute sucker for stories about people being altered by love, art and friendship. And David Nicholls's novel about a sad, directionless 16-year-old absolutely gutted me. It's one of the most entertaining books I've read this year. I stopped counting the number of times I laughed out loud. And I was a sobbing, smiling mess by the end.

Charlie Lewis has flailed about in his final year of high school and, on the eve of summer, is staring straight ahead at a bleak future. Earlier in the year, his mom and dad split up, and his mom has moved with Charlie's sister to live at her new boyfriend's place. Meanwhile, Charlie's stuck with his unemployed, depressed dad. Charlie has a few mates, but they do little except engage in minor, monosyllabic bullying.

On a melancholy bike ride in a meadow, in a meet-cute too complicated to explain, Charlie runs into Fran Fisher, a beautiful girl from a more posh school. She's stepped away for a few minutes from the Full Fathom Five amateur Shakespeare theatre troupe, and somehow Charlie gets roped into joining, which he does only because he wants to spend more time with Fran.

This budding relationship with Fran, and his introduction to the eccentric group of theatre folks (a couple of whom know him from school, and don't like him), changes his life forever. Charlie goes from the type of guy you'd never notice – perfect for Benvolio, the role he eventually plays in the troupe's Romeo and Juliet – to someone who learns to take control of his life, to be his own leading man.

Nicholls sets up two time schemes. In the present-day one, set 20 years later, Charlie seems successful and witty, and is engaged to be married to a cheerful and fun woman named Niamh. But before this pivotal event, he has to come to terms with that oh-so-long ago summer. He has to come to terms with Fran. And his family. And his mates. And with some stupid thing he did at the part-time job he had at a petrol station.

I'd seen the movies made from Nicholls' earlier books Starter For 10 and – his big breakthrough – One Day. I found them fine, but not extraordinary. Now I'm eager to read them.

Nicholls is a generous, insightful and very funny writer who understands everything from the confusion and awkwardness of youth and the exhilaration of first love to the despair of loneliness and self-pity. (The story of Charlie's father's failed business venture, and his mom's attempts to salvage it and move on, are heartbreaking.) Even minor characters come alive with a few sharp lines of dialogue. And because Nicholls was an actor before he became a writer, he understands the milieu of the theatre world, which is captured with drama, bombast and complete affection.

Sure, the novel is a tad too long, and some of the young characters are a little too witty to be believable (they're balanced out by Charlie's gruff, grunting mates), but there is so much about this book that rings true. I loved the Shakespeare quotes. I loved all the acting exercises, the rehearsals and the descriptions of the performances. I loved the burgeoning romance. I loved spending time with Charlie and Fran.

Parting with them – and this book – was, indeed, sweet sorrow.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,114 reviews1,977 followers
March 22, 2020
I have changed my rating several times while sitting here trying to decide what to write about this book. I am dithering between three and four stars but I am going to go with ………...three.

Basically it was a pleasant read. The characters were okay if a bit annoying. Oh except for Charlie's mother who was awful. Charlie himself had been dealt a very rough deal and meeting Fran was probably the saving of him.

Mostly it was a fairly normal coming of age tale interspersed with lots of Shakespeare, which was rather well done. The dialogue was often quite funny and the ending, set many years later, rounded everything off nicely.

So a nice book and an easy read but for me it was not in the same ball park as Us.
Profile Image for Dolors.
516 reviews2,139 followers
July 22, 2020
I had forgotten how refreshing Nicholl’s writing style can be. Like in the previous novels I have read by him, there are plenty of musical references from the 80s to make one’s heart beat with nostalgia while a silly, unconscious smile is permanently planted on your face.
Nicholls knows precisely how to do that. How to involve the reader, almost in a casual way that breathes out depth. Depth of feeling, depth in character construction, depth in building a story that goes back and forth in time to recreate the situations that brought the main protagonist to the present time.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow”. says Juliet to Romeo when they are saying goodnight in Shakespeare’s famous play. What an adept title for a story about first love, that violent and memorable kind of love that usually burns itself out.
Charlie meets Fran accidentally one summer and he embarks on a quest very unlike himself for the sake of being close to her. During the course of the hot season, Charlie will rehearse in an amateur theatre company playing Benvolio while Fran plays Juliet, and as weeks go by and he gets to dig deep into Shakespeare’s lines, he realizes that he has fallen seriously in love for the first time at seventeen.

As many teenagers of his age, Charlie is lost and has no clear vision of himself. His parents have recently separated, his father is depressed and drinks way too much, money is always short. A couple of unwise, reckless decisions will define the future of Charlie and Fran, and a very pleased reader will take a peek into their lives twenty years after their initial encounter.

Indeed, I will say it once more. Nicholls knows how to pen his stories. There is plenty of intelligent banter, like in Shakespeare’s plays, also sincere empathy for people who have to make their own way, fighting against the odds, to become what they are meant to be.
Emotional without being sugary, light without being superficial, Nicholls unfolds a multilayered story about the many facets of love: first love, familial love, mature, bored love and the kind of love that true friendship irradiates, helping us at crucial moments.
His books sound like real life with the perfect soundtrack of good literature referenced in the right context, and one can’t help but dance at the tune of his characters, and smile to see how they grow to become reflections of what we were... and what we still might be.
Thumbs up, Mr.Nicholls!

I was given a free copy by the publisher of this novel in Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
2,092 reviews588 followers
April 28, 2020
In 1997 sixteen year old Charlie Lewis has just finished his last year at school in a small town in Sussex. It's not been a good year for him. His mother has left the marriage, moving in with another man and his two daughters, taking Charlie's younger sister with her, but leaving Charlie alone with his depressed and recently bankrupt father. Charlie knows he's done badly in his GCSE exams and won't be going on to sixth form college and apart from a few hours working at a service station doesn't know how he's going to fill in the summer break before exam results come out.

Cycling around the nearby countryside, he one day discovers a crumbling mansion where a theatre troupe are rehearsing Romeo and Juliet with a group of local youth, several from his own school. Not usually interested in theatre, Charlie is reluctant to accept their invitation to join the troupe until the very attractive girl playing Juliet, Fran Fisher makes him an offer he can't refuse.

Now, twenty years later about to attend a reunion of the theatre troupe, Charlie looks back on that summer. His experience in being part of a close knit group, the power of Shakespeare to open him to literature and ideas and first love. David Nicholls has written a bitter sweet tale of young lovers, both humorous and poignant. While this feels like a fairly standard coming of age story, he has a wonderful understanding of teenage boys and a light touch that makes for an entertaining novel. 3.5★

With many thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for a digital copy to read
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,365 reviews784 followers
March 24, 2020
“. . . and it occurred to me then, just as it does now, that the greatest lie that age tells about youth is that it’s somehow free of care, worry or fear.

Good God, doesn’t anyone remember?”

Sweet sorrow this is – a tender, nostalgic reminiscence of Charlie Lewis, now in his thirties, about his 16-year-old self - not sporty, not a nerd, not an outcast, not handsome, not ugly, and not exceptional in any way. But also not without friends, though his are hardly a gang. They’re just a loose bunch of kids that have grown up together, punching each other on the shoulder, kicking gravel, sneaking alcohol. Nothing exciting.

Nicholls knows his boys, what makes them tick – or not. The quick shame, blush, anger, and frustration.

“As a student, my distinctive feature was a lack of distinction. 'Charlie works hard to meet basic standards and for the most part achieves them;' this was as good as it got, and even that slight reputation had been dimmed by events of the exam season.”

This is boys in England in the summer of 1996, with no social media, no mobile (cell) phones, just hanging out together in real life. The highlight of the day might be getting some contraband liquor and playing pool or watching DVDs in someone’s basement, then eventually starting a wrestling match, usually stopping before bones are broken. They are struggling to grow up.

“Of all the markers on the road to adulthood — voting, driving a car, legal drinking — the most elusive for a Merton Grange boy was to see a bra-strap without pinging it. To not be a dick: this was the great rite of passage that we had yet to pass through.”

But Charlie has a bike – nothing flash, but the pedals work – and he likes to read. The bike and books are his escape from his bickering family. He’s upset with the changing dynamics at home.

“From the ages of, say, twenty-one to sixty-five when they officially became old, I had always assumed that adults stayed pretty much the same, and parents in particular. Wasn’t this the definition of adulthood, an end to change? Wasn’t it their job to remain constant?”

Yep. That’s pretty much how a lot of us see our parents, at least, when we’re in school. We seem to give a lot more leeway to aunts and uncles, I think, but Charlie’s in for a lot of changes. Mum’s fed up with Dad’s drinking and depression.

‘So are we . . . bankrupt?’ I saw her shoulders stiffen.

‘Where did you hear that?’

‘You and Dad talking.’

‘I wish you wouldn’t eavesdrop.’

‘You were shouting, so . . . ’

As I said, not a happy family. Later, he complains to his mum about a major change in circumstances.

‘You’re old enough for all this now, Charlie.’ She held the door open. ‘And if you’re not — well. Time to grow up.’

Gee thanks, Mum.

Out on his bike, lying in the sunshine in an empty field with a book, he is stumbled across by a girl running away playfully from friends. When she twists her ankle, he has to help her back, thereby leading him into an entirely new loose collection of mostly young people at Fawley Manor, a big old house where they have congregated.

They fancy themselves a troupe of players, and beg him to join to help put on “Romeo and Juliet” (from which “sweet sorrow” comes, of course). Yeah, right, as if he can act. But that Fran Fisher is awfully cute and funny and smart and she seems to think he is, too. Goodness knows why!

And so it goes. David Nicholls studied English Literature and Drama and worked in London as an actor for several years in the 90s. (https://literature.britishcouncil.org... )

Among his many other writing credits, he wrote an updated version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (part of ShakespeaRE-told), which was nominated for several awards. Here are some of the media awards. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0390141/a...

I loved and recommend Us, about a middle-aged couple splitting up, which I read several years ago. (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... )

Had I known his experience with Shakespeare, I might have enjoyed this more. Charlie is exasperated with the in-jokes and the mock-Shakespearian banter that the other “actors” play around with, and I was certainly running out of patience with all the semi-quotes and showing off by too many characters I didn’t care about. I reckon some of them, both quotes and folks, could be thinned out.

I was so exasperated myself that I nearly gave up more than once. I was feeling as if I was at someone else’s reunion where I didn’t know anybody and there was nobody I really wanted to meet. I’m glad I finished, because he has some wonderful insights and ways of describing the little interactions between people of all ages, and I enjoyed them. And I liked grown-up Charlie very much.

I think it should appeal to young people, particularly those interested in theatre, not because it’s theatrical but because it may echo some of the relationships they have had (or wish they’d had). And I think it will definitely appeal to adults who have participated in amateur drama, especially in their youth. I certainly recognised the kids from my school plays.

I will definitely read more Nicholls, and I thank NetGalley and Mariner Books for the preview copy.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,849 reviews34.9k followers
January 20, 2021
Audiobook....read by Rory Kinnear

The title “Sweet Sorrow” .... an oxymoron .... is spot-on-to-a-T.
....words from the play Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. Their sorrowful parting is also sweet because it made them think about the next time they will see each other.

Throughout this tragicomedy- coming-of-age novel....we journey along with Charlie Lewis.....
....sometimes I was chuckling....
....sometimes the storytelling (and *Charlie*) were adorably sweet....
.....sometimes the story took a little lag, but the lags didn’t last for long; soon I was engaged again....
....other times due to the despicable tragedy — I felt emotionally saddened.

I was especially sad when Charlie’’s mother was going to leave the family - move in with her lover - take Charlie’s younger brother with her — and leave Charlie home with his father.

Charlie’s dad — an amateur saxophone player - used to be a social drinker boozy —he’d drink after musical gigs - have some beers with his buddies— but by middle age -his drinking became a daily habit.

Charlie was sixteen when his dad was middle age. Their easy-living with each other —from pastime-old-movie watching, grub eating together—to Charlie’s dad’s middle age ‘rage’ ...mixed with Charlie’s teenage bitterness ( about his dad’s irate’s temper), ...Charlie got off on provoking his dad’s rage.
I found it really sad that Charlie’s depressed - self pitying -drinker -pill popping father was Charlie’s dominant parent, and male role model.
Charlie had to become the ‘acting’ adult.
I found this part of the story very profound....and how these type of youthful experiences shape our lives forever.

So while home life was much to be desired —Charlie was an awkward teenager who stumbled into real acting. He joined a summer Theater Group. The play is ( of course), Romeo and Juliet.
The girl in the Company who intrigued Charlie was Fran.

Summer romance - first love - adolescent awkwardness & self-consciousness - school - friendships - family - family struggles - the theater setting of Romeo and Juliet was beautiful- wonderful characters - sweetness - sensitivity -- complexities of emotions - great narrative and dialogue ....TONS OF HUMANITY....
Big boys and girls do cry....
And growing up is hard to do!

Heartwarming, heartbreaking,.....SWEET & SORROWFUL 🍒

Profile Image for Joachim Stoop.
706 reviews470 followers
August 20, 2019

Let's talk movies and TV (and food):

Imagine the sitcom Friends was unpopular and quite unknown and you just discovered and binge watched it. Of course you want to convince others to check it out. And now, go back to reality and think about what a major succes it really was and still is, and how no real self respecting TV-expert would name it as his or her all-time favourite show. That's perhaps the only downside of that big a succes. Same counts for some beststelling authors. In my opinion books like A ladder to the sky by John Boyne and One day + this Sweet sorrow by David Nicholls are underrated in the Literature-with-capital-L-booklovers-arty-land. It will sell, big time! But will Sweet sorrow be longlisted, awarded or even praised by the topnotch Goodreads-circle?

'Sweet sorrow' in cinematic terms is mixing Dead poet's society with Boyhood and the Before sunrise-trilogy. While there is enough drama and tragedy going on, there is always soms lightness to it as in these movies. For example the first pages of Sweet sorrow where we join a 16-year old boy at the start of this clearly everlasting summer in a small town announcing a struggle of his longing for lifechanging experiences against infinite boredom, could have been written by Marilynne Robinson or Ann Pratchett (were it not for the fact that Nicholls throws in the YA-wit of a John Green at his best).

But here is the catch: I can imagine readers who dislike the sweetness and the constant quest for puns and tender humor. And I know: reading with a permanent smile or grin can hurt your cheeks after a while. So it's possible others see this as a trap which to avoid. The way the coin flips is difficult to predict. A good example in my case was my adoration for Frederik Bachman's Beartown (1) and my total dislike of his Us against you (Beartown 2). The second being just too sirupy and totally fatiguing in trying too hard to give me goosebumps.

And while Sweet sorrow sometimes felt as if you sit in your living room with an ideal temperature in a perfect sofa with the right amount of sunrays entering while watching a Sundance movie and eating nostalgic candy, it was totally worth the tootache.
But, my highbrow GR-friend, I won't hold it against you if you give it 1 star.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,463 reviews927 followers
December 28, 2019

... the greatest lie that age tells about youth is that it’s somehow free of care, worry or fear.
Good God, doesn’t anyone remember?

I’ve been traveling on a bumpy (literary) road in 2019, with many detours into other hobbies and quite a few potholes along the way, but at least I saved the best for last. After reading “One Day”, I knew David Nicholls was my kinda writer, so I saved his new novel for the winter holidays and I was not disappointed. I’m not sure that I can, or even that I should, find a rational explanation of why I hold Nicholls in such high regard. There is something here akin to magnetic resonance, where the actual text is only the starting point of flights of fancy or travels down memory lanes that have more to do with my own baggage of past experiences that with developments in the actual story.

Yet, Nicholls is a true magician, keeping me captivated and involved in his tale right from the William Maxwell epigraph (memory is a sort of storytelling and in talking about the past we lie with every breath we take), to the last bittersweet line.

‘Sweet sorrow’. It wasn’t until Monday morning that I discovered she’d taken it from the play.

The novel is built around the premise that everything important about life has been said somewhere in a Shakespeare play. Not only are his words still relevant today, but when it comes to young love we are hard-pressed to think of anybody else than Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo (Charlie Lewis) has just graduated highschool with less than exemplary results. He is terminally shy, introverted, in dire financial straits and from a broken down family. Juliet (Fran Fisher) is smart, outgoing, well-read and living in a posh suburb. They wouldn’t normally meet in regular social interactions, but in that suspended timeline between finishing school and starting the rest of your life, there’s a chance Shakespeare might become relevant.

Summer lay ahead and in this interval between past regret and future fear, might it not be possible to have fun, live life and make something happen?

I can almost pinpoint how Nicholls is pulling on the strings of my heart like a marionette. Charlie Lewis is a typical teenager, a white canvas on which every reader might write down his own picture-show. Fran Fisher is that girl with laughing eyes you fell for the instant she noticed you across the crowded room. And isn’t there, indelibly stamped on our memory, a shining summer when all of love seemed within grasp of our fingers?

We were plastic, mutable and there was still time to experiment and alter our handwriting, our politics, the way we laughed or walked or sat in a chair, before we hardened and set. The last five years had been like some great chaotic rehearsal, with discarded clothes and attitudes, friendships and opinions littering the floor; scary and exhilarating for those taking part, maddening and absurd for the parents and teachers subjected to those fraught improvisations and obliged to clear up the mess.

The novel is written, as so many of love stories are, by looking backward in time from an adult perspective. Nicholls is well aware of our tendency to skim over the uncomfortable bits and to edit out the facts that are not complimentary to our self-image, shining a rosy light over past embarrassments or misguided actions. So he tries a more honest approach here with Charlie and Fran, even as readers are warned on the first page to be wary of lies.

The notion that these had been the best years of our lives suddenly seemed both plausible and tragic and I wished that school had always been like this, our arms around each other, filled with a kind of hooligan love, and that I’d talked to these people more and in a different voice.

The opening chapter, describing the graduation party at Charlie’s school, is a great mood-setting operation. Nostalgia, rough humour, mysterious notes (‘You made me cry’), anxiety mixed with high expectations about the future, the first person narration – all in a day’s work for a good storyteller to capture your attention.

The really smart move for me was bringing Shakespeare and amateur theater into the equation. Because the modern rite of passage into adulthood is to learn how to play a part, how to protect our fragile hearts by hiding behind a mask of cosmopolitan savoir-faire, how to be actors on the world scene. Charlie Lewis is brought out of his navel-gazing, self-pitying summer funk by a girl inviting him to take part in an amateur re-enactment of “Romeo and Juliet”. He joins the troupe not because he has a real interest in the Thespian arts, but because he would really like to see Fran again. In the meantime, Charlie might learn some valuable life-hacks.

Alina had said something about learning how to move through this world, responding naturally to others, and I’d snapped to attention; to a boy who could not walk across a crowded space or share a sofa with a parent or stand next to a girl without losing the power of speech, this was a talent worth possessing.

All of these scenes only takes care of the first couple of chapters in the novel. Many readers would be justified to yawn and complain that they’ve heard it all before. Of course they had. It’s the oldest story in the world. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, boy loses girl. How many thousands of pages have been written on the subject? About as many as how many will be written from this day forward.

Love is boring. Love is familiar and commonplace for anyone not taking part, and first love is just a gangling, glandular incarnation of the same. Shakespeare must have known this; take a copy of the world’s most famous love story and pinch between finger and thumb the pages where the lovers are truly happy; not the build-up that precedes it, not the strife that follows, but the time when love is mutual and untroubled. It’s a few pages, a pamphlet almost, the brief interlude between anticipation and despair.

The real knack is not to find something new to say, but to somehow act like a catalyst for those long repressed memories of youth, for those of us lucky enough to have them. And David Nicholls seems to have that way with words on a piece of paper.

Embarassment aside, I had an old-fashioned, almost chivalric sense that those words should not be scattered around. Like a wish or a runic spell that summons up demons, the phrase had to be used with absolute care, and though I might then say it a thousand times, I could say it for the first time only once.

Just as much as good-ole Shakespeare did in his time:

‘Forget to think of her? O teach me how I should forget to think!’

I deleted just about as many quotes as I included, mostly because they struck too close to my own past to be relevant in a generic book review, but I had to leave at least one in, for old times sake (summer of ’86):

Nothing had ever looked cooler to me than Fran Fisher on a drop-handled Italian racing bike, and as much as we could we’d cycle side by side, the sun fluttering through the trees like light through an old projector, sometimes only making it a short distance before we’d pull over and, still kissing, stumble and stagger off our bikes.

The last chapters in the novel are almost anti-climatic in their cine-verite ordinariness. Real-life comes to every young lovers who survive the flash-fire emotional turmoil of first love, unlike Romeo and Juliet who didn’t have to worry about long-distance relationships, jealousy, envy, miscommunications and simple exhaustion. What is left in the end is, hopefully, the learned ability to move through this world without carrying your heart out on your sleeve. To recognize love in its many-coloured cloths it might wear, and to be ready to jump on its wagon the next time it comes around your door.

This is a love story, though now that it’s over it occurs to me that it’s actually four or five, perhaps more: familial and paternal love; the slow-burning, reviving love of friends; the brief, blinding explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly once it has burnt out.
September 27, 2020
*Many thanks to Goodreads, Mariner, and David Nicholls for this ARC! Now available as of 8.4!*

David Nicholls definitely has found his passion as a writer, and it lies in exploring the concept of nostalgia and first love. I was really excited to read this one after thoroughly enjoying One Day, but I feel as though that book is better executed and dives a lot deeper than this one for me. Charlie takes his readers back through an important summer for him, the last summer before college, and delves into his feelings about his family, groups of friends, and how he met his first true love, Fran.

The thing that this novel is truly missing is a through-line. The chapters are all titled and feel like a series of very short essays, like you might see in a memoir. We don’t ever get a really good sense of how Charlie has developed from a young man into the man he has become, and the parts set in the present could have almost been omitted entirely. I felt like many of the scenes with the theatre troupe were slow-moving and not incredibly interesting, and with so many characters I didn’t feel like the reader has a chance to really know any of them either.

The best aspect of the book is, of course, Charlie’s relationship and conversations with Fran, but I would have liked to have more of those too. The last third of the book is markedly more interesting than the first two parts, but I didn’t feel the payoff since I wasn’t fully invested.

There are some great wistful observations made throughout, so it is definitely worth giving this one a shot if you enjoy Shakespeare, acting, or want to relive the feeling of meeting your first love! 3.5 ⭐️
Profile Image for Anni.
541 reviews72 followers
July 29, 2019
'First love is like a stupid pop song that you hear and you think, well this is all I will ever want to listen to, it's got everything. 'Course, we wouldn't put it on now. We're too hard and experienced and sophisticated. But when it comes on the radio, well, it's still a good song."

This author never puts a foot wrong in the 'bittersweet' novel genre, as far as I'm concerned. And here, David Nicholls expertly sidesteps any hint of sickly schmaltz - which is quite a feat when writing about the romance of first love, set against the backdrop of a production of Romeo and Juliet .

I'm sure that Sweet Sorrow will be marketed as an ideal airport/holiday read, but Nicholl's writing lifts it many grades above that level.

I forgot to say that I listened to the audio version of this book which has a brilliant performance by Rory Kinnear.
Profile Image for Mandy.
3,102 reviews261 followers
January 2, 2020
I couldn’t even finish this trite and banal coming-of-age tale – although I did skip to the end to see what happened and to find out if I wanted to persevere. I didn’t. Tedious self-indulgent ramblings from a tedious self-indulgent teenager looking back on the big romance of his youth. Nothing and no one engaged me, I wasn’t interested in the narrative, such as it was, and so I gave up. Unconvincing and uninteresting.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,508 reviews2,508 followers
August 29, 2019
The title is a snippet from Romeo and Juliet, which provides the setup and subject matter for this novel about first love during the golden summer of 1997, when Charlie Lewis and Fran Fisher are 16. Charlie thinks he’s way too cool for the thespians, but if he wants to keep seeing Fran he has to join the Full Fathom Five Theatre Co-operative for the five weeks of rehearsals leading up to performances. Besides, he doesn’t have anything better to do – besides watching his dad get drunk on the couch and scamming the petrol station where he works nights, that is. Charlie starts off as the most robotic Benvolio imaginable, but Fran helps bring him up to scratch with her private tutoring (which is literal as well as a euphemism).

Glimpses of the present day are an opportunity for nostalgia and regret, as Charlie/Nicholls coyly insists that first love means nothing: “love is boring. Love is familiar and commonplace for anyone not taking part, and first love is just a gangling, glandular incarnation of the same. … first love wasn’t real love anyway, just a fraught and feverish, juvenile imitation of it.” I enjoyed the teenage boy perspective (Charlie makes a good narrator) and the theatre company shenanigans well enough, but was bored with the endless back story about Charlie’s family: his father’s record shops went bankrupt; his mother left him for another golf club colleague and took his sister; he and his depressed father are slobby roommates subsisting on takeaways and booze; blah blah blah.

It’s possible that had I read or seen R&J more recently, I would have spotted some clever parallels. Honestly? I’d cut 100+ pages (it should really be closer to 300 pages than 400) and repackage this as YA fiction. If you’re looking for lite summer fare reminiscent of Rachel Joyce and, yes, One Day, this will slip down easily, but I feel like I need to get better about curating my library stack and weeding out new releases that will be readable but forgettable. I really liked Us, which explains why I was willing to take another chance on Nicholls.

Note: There is a pretty bad anachronism here: a reference to watching The Matrix, which wasn’t released until 1999 (p. 113, “Cinnamon” chapter). Also a reference to Hobby Lobby, which as far as I know doesn’t exist in the UK (it’s Hobbycraft here) (p. 205, “Masks” chapter). Perhaps they jumped the gun in getting this ready for its U.S. release?

Favorite summery passage: “This summer’s a bastard, isn’t it? Sun comes out, sky’s blue if you’re lucky and suddenly there are all these preconceived ideas of what you should be doing, lying on a beach or jumping off a rope swing into the river or having a picnic with all your amazing mates, sitting on a blanket in a meadow and eating strawberries and laughing in that mad way, like in the adverts. It’s never like that, it’s just six weeks of feeling like you’re in the wrong place ... and you’re missing out. That’s why summer’s so sad – because you’re meant to be so happy. Personally, I can’t wait to get my tights back on, turn the central heating up. At least in winter you’re allowed to be miserable” (Fran)
Profile Image for Margaret James.
9 reviews23 followers
August 18, 2019
I was sent an advance reading copy of this new book, and I must admit that after loving One Day, then finding Us rather disappointing, I started reading Sweet Sorrow with a feeling of trepidation. But, after a slogging through the first few chapters of set-up, it hooked me, and I was soon going to bed early so I could read more of Charlie Lewis's most engaging story.

Charlie is sixteen, has big problems at home, and is failing at school. One morning he goes out on his bike and encounters a group of students from his school and the posher school up the road, all engaged in rehearsals for an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet. Reluctant to get involved, Charlie is cajoled into playing the minor part of Benvolio (who? Well, exactly. Who remembers Benvolio?) and he sticks with it because he's falling heavily for Fran Fisher, the girl from the posher school who is playing Juliet.

I'm sure everyone must remember the first time they fell in love, and must look back on the experience with a mixture of embarrassment, regret, relief, resentment - any or all of those things - depending on how it all played out. Charlie/David writes so eloquently about these emotions that I found myself laughing, wincing and tearful in turn. He's also great on how teenagers feel about parents (why aren't they all responsible, respectable, rich and reliable, instead of feckless, poor, useless and hopeless?) and about growing up into adulthood.

You might feel, as I did, that the novel takes a while to get going. But please bear with it. I can assure you it's worth it. As I turned the final pages, I slowed down because I didn't want it to end. Charlie had become my best friend.

It's a winner for me.
Profile Image for Sharon Metcalf.
722 reviews159 followers
August 9, 2020
I read One Day by David Nicholls five years ago and I still think of it as one of my favorite romance novels.  I also recall it as a very sad and ugly cry inducing book yet I loved it.    Soon after  I went back and tried another novel by this author and couldn't have been more disappointed.     Five years on I read the blurb for Sweet Sorrow and figured I would give David Nicholls another try as this one sounded similar to the one I'd loved.    It turns out this was a great decision.    I loved it, and though there were tough times for the characters there were no ugly tears for me and  from beginning to end I was captivated.

For all intents and purposes Sweet Sorrow was the story of sixteen year old Charlie Lewis.   Granted it was his version of events as a teen boy, reflecting back with the benefit of twenty years of life experience.   In his mid thirties Charlie is about to be married for the first time but he's been invited to a reunion which is highly likely to put him in touch with Fran Fisher his first love.    This possibility puts him in a reminiscing frame of mind.    Thoughts of himself at sixteen and about to finish school.    Sixteen and full of self doubt and lacking confidence.    Sixteen and overflowing with emotions and insecurities about his family life - the shock and disappointment of his parents separation,  worry about his fathers bankruptcy,  anxiety induced insomnia and to some extent resentment about his fathers mental state.    But also  sixteen and making a new set of friends.    Sixteen and stepping out of his comfort zone and into a Shakespeare theatre production.     Sixteen and learning to trust.   Sixteen and making mistakes but stepping up and finding a semblance of maturity to deal with the medley of emotions.   Sixteen and falling in love for the first time.  

David Nicholls wrote in such a way that I was right there with Charlie experiencing the highs and lows with him.    He captured the emotions perfectly, the uncertainties of youth but also the lighter moments, the absolute bliss of falling in love for the first time.   It was infused with humor and ended on a feel good note of positivity.   It was a wonderful reading experience and one I can highly recommend.

Thanks to David Nicholls, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Mariner Books and NetGalley for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review which it was my pleasure to provide. I'll be rating this as 4.5 stars on Goodreads.
Profile Image for Andrea.
743 reviews31 followers
August 11, 2019
A good book, but not up there with my favourites from this author.

Charlie Lewis has just finished his high school exams. He knows he hasn't done well, but he doesn't entirely blame it on his parents for separating during his exam prep... With a long, aimless summer stretched in front of him, and wanting to be out of the house, away from his depressed, unemployed dad, Charlie spends his days cycling the countryside and reading through his father's collection of books. It's while he's laying in a meadow, reading one of the classics, that he meets Fran Fisher for the first time. The story goes on to detail Charlie's first love, with lots of Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet, no less) thrown in for good measure and atmosphere.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm wondering if I prefer Nicholls when he's writing slightly older characters?

Nevertheless I'm sure this book will be a hit amongst Nicholls aficionados and will also attract a slew of new readers to his fanbase.
Profile Image for Jess.
17 reviews6 followers
November 7, 2019
If you've never read any David Nicholls, this is a great book. Atmospheric, funny, well written, heartwarming, lovely. The problem is that if you've read all his other books, it reads like a David Nicholls Paint-By-Numbers, or whatever the book-version of that would be...

Fran is a great character, but I've come to the sudden, horrid realisation that she's exactly the same as every main female character in every book by David Nicholls. Though his main male characters are marginally more varied, it is sadly marginally, and Charlie is really cut from the same cloth as all the rest, too.

The pacing is also not what it should be. The first half of the book felt like endless exposition, which isnt something I've encountered as a problem in Nicholls' previous books. It crawls along until page 300 - 3/4 of the way through - before finally picking up a little for the cliched finish.

Honestly, I came away from this book very disappointed. This was my most anticipated read of 2019. I love David Nicholls' writing, and he's brilliant at what he does, he really is. I'm just really sad that it turns out, in the end, that he can only do the one thing... I hate that I've had to write a negative review for this. I gave it 3 stars as it's still very good, I did enjoy it, I just... I feel like he could do, and has done, so, so much better.

[Additional Note: If you're new to Nicholls, read One Day first, then Us which is also brilliant, then Starter for Ten, then, if you must, read Sweet Sorrow. You'll really enjoy the other books more for it, and when you get to Sweet Sorrow you'll see what I mean...]
Profile Image for Abril Camino.
Author 29 books1,456 followers
April 5, 2020
Pues... no me ha gustado demasiado. David Nicholls es mi autor favorito, quizá las altas expectativas ante su nueva novela jugaron en mi contra, pero lo cierto es que me resultó aburridísimo. La historia del pasado es muy lenta y la del presente apenas la vemos. La narración es bonita, como siempre en el autor, pero la historia no me ha llegado para nada.
Profile Image for jesslyn.
305 reviews236 followers
January 15, 2021
RATING: 2.5 Stars, rounded up

It was kinda boring (or maybe that’s because I’m still young) but the ending struck something in me.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,267 reviews115 followers
April 23, 2020
“In the chaos of our family’s self-destruction he had quietly and unassumingly made himself present and though I could hardly recall a conversation that might be considered personal or honest, in the strange, mute semaphore of teenage boys he’d communicated a sense of care and somehow passed on the message to the others, an unspoken command to be, if not kind , then not actively cruel.”

Sweet Sorrow is the fifth novel by British author, David Nicholls. It was mid-1997, school was done, and sixteen-year-old Charlie Lewis was resigned to an unpromising future, waiting for the rest of his life to begin. Meanwhile, there was a long summer to endure, living with his father, Brian, the currently unemployed former owner of a chain of failed record shops. By default, as the older child, Charlie was left to look after his father when his mother left to live with her lover, taking along his sister.

“I knew from science fiction, rather than from Science lessons, that time behaves differently depending on your location, and from a sixteen-year-old’s lower bunk at the end of June in 1997, it moved more slowly than anywhere else in the cosmos.”

Brian Lewis was now often a sad, Mad Dad (chronically, clinically depressed), and sixteen-year-old Charlie was frightened, furious and resentful of the father he’d formerly connected so well with: he went out on his bike as often as possible.

“Boredom was our natural state but loneliness was taboo and so I strained for the air of a loner, a maverick, unknowable and self-contained, riding with no hands. But a great effort is required not to appear lonely when you are alone, happy when you’re not.”

On one of these rides, Charlie found himself quite unintentionally rehearsing Romeo and Juliet with Full Fathom Five Theatre Cooperative on a hint of a possibility of a promise from the lovely Fran Fisher, playing Juliet. It was something he kept meticulously separate from his school mates, whose ridicule could not be borne, but which he eventually realised was enjoyable for more reasons than Fran’s proximity.

Few authors can match Nicholls for portrayal of the kind of hopeless male who might show a bit of promise but ultimately excels in mediocrity: “Not admired but not despised, not adored but not feared; I was not a bully, though I knew a fair few, but did not intervene or place myself between the pack and the victim, because I wasn’t brave either. I neither conformed nor rebelled, collaborated nor resisted; I stayed out of trouble without getting into anything else. Comedy was our great currency and while I was not a class clown, neither was I witless” and “in photos of myself from that time, I’m reminded of those early incarnations of a cartoon character, the prototypes that resemble the later version but are in some way out of proportion, not quite right” are examples.
Nicholls gives the reader a moving tale of first love with a protagonist who will strike a chord with anyone who can remember their teens, can remember agonising over every word, overthinking every gesture. There’s plenty of humour, some of it a little bleak, but also some lump-in-the-throat moments. A beautiful read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Profile Image for Marcello S.
503 reviews208 followers
October 10, 2019
Storia d’amore tra due sedicenni nel 1997, coinvolti in una messa in scena di Romeo e Giulietta.
Si legge facile e ha qualche riflessione onesta sull’essere adolescenti. La cosa migliore è il rapporto tra Charlie e suo padre, in certi momenti.
Però non è davvero niente di nuovo e la struttura a capitoli brevi coi titoletti inutili non aiuta a dargli spessore.
Coinvolgimento e peso specifico bassini.

Dovevo dare l’idea di essere molto solo, ma non volevo che nessuno lo pensasse. La noia era la nostra condizione naturale, però la solitudine era tabú, per cui mi sforzavo di apparire uno che amava stare per conto suo, enigmatico e autosufficiente.

Profile Image for Brendan.
103 reviews9 followers
July 25, 2019
While I was reading this book I kept trying to think of the right adjective for it. Conventional? Bland? Square? Yes, they all fit but don't quite capture the essence I'm searching for. The best I can come up with is 'nice', as used in the negative sense. As in 'too nice'. When you say someone's too nice, you really mean they're boring or irritating in a way that's somehow connected to their niceness. This book is too nice.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,715 reviews1,144 followers
August 10, 2019
The book starts in 1997, on 16 year old Charlie Lewis’s last day at his Surrey/Sussex border town comprehensive school. Charlie is a largely invisible student – tagging along with a gang of three other boys who are the classroom clowns. His anger at his Mother leaving him with his father and at the lethargy and depression of the latter, already struggling from the collapse of the family record shop chain and his earlier saxophone player career – was played out in a complete failure to study for his GCSEs. As a result while others plan careers or college – he faces the Summer (and the future behind it) with a quiet dread – taking a casual job at a petrol station where he starts a low level fraud on scratch cards (which offer cash or cheap glassware prizes).

Early in the Summer holidays a girl Fran Fisher literally runs into him. She attends a local arty/hippy school which his school regularly fights (and defeats). He is immediately attracted to her but to his horror finds that she (together with 3 children from his own school’s drama society with which he would never normally mix) is involved in the Full Fathom Five Theatre Co-Operative Society which based at a local large house plan to put on a show of Romeo and Juliet with local students (boosted by some Am-Dram players), building up to the play via a series of Theatre Play and Improv Sessions.

Fran hints she will consider a date with him if he joins the players – initially to play Sampson but then asked to cover Mercutio. Fran (playing Juliet) is a natural actor, Charlie is not – but via Fran’s coaching, by seeing over time how Shakespeare’s words seem to capture his own emotions as he and Fran embark on a tentative relationship, and by discovering a sense of community among the players despite his clear differences to them, he gradually works his way into the play.

The first person book is mainly written in 1997, but also includes modern sections, Charlie about to be married is invited by his best man (themselves one of the Romeo and Juliet cast) to a Full Fathom Five reunion.

Overall a gentle and enjoyable book which is perhaps too slow and too long – interestingly Nicholls had intended originally to make it a novella and while one can imagine his publisher’s horror at that idea (novellas not normally featuring as must-read beach books), it would I think have made a better book.

A clear attempt to return to the romance, youth and nostalgia of One Day (after the more mature “Us”) but perhaps without the same magic (albeit One Day was always going to be very hard to follow).

A book explicitly designed to capture first young love as well as the sense of bewilderment that comes with being 16 and unsure of one’s future and which therefore entirely failed to resonate for me, one of (to use Charlie’s expression) the Book Token kids.

Profile Image for Dale Dean.
29 reviews4 followers
November 2, 2020
Life often imitates art and more so than art imitating life. I philosophise that now at midnight and more or less quote oscar wilde. But how to reach that conclusion is through the ages borrowing from Shakespeare or plutarch the Greeks the romans. David Nicholls I believe creates that impression in his wonderful heartfelt book sweet Sorrow.

Charlie Lewis is 16. He's dreading his gcse results his home life is in turmoil and the summer ahead is always long. But what to do? Well it changes his life this particular summer. The forgettable face on the school photograph the forgettable name in the diary. Ahh but not really as Charlie's confidence grows through drama after at first an unseemingly likely place.

Set around the 90s which is my era of those memorable summers with a great soundtrack great memories and some not so great. All part of life's tapestry I connected with this book like no other. It left me emotional and longing for those days back the discovery of first love and friendship that you think will never break.

But as the years go by memories fade people 'move on'. New bonds are formed new jobs new relationships. The theatre company that Charlie was part of made him and set him up for the future with an increase in confidence. In my story I was confident until high school then lost it to endless circumstances. So I do get the drama is so important in life. Letting go of inhibitions and growing as a person. Why did I drop it? I'm getting carried away with my own emotions here... Back to the book.

Fran Fisher! The name slides of the tongue it's like somebody you know. David Nicholls does that best his characters are real and you simply engage with them. Sweet Sorrow glides page after page drawing you back in. It made me laugh out loud it made me sob. I'm 39 but don't get a grip let it flow you're in safe hands with this author. One day another emotional roller-coaster I thought couldn't be bettered by David Nicholls but he's actually done it!

What can I take from this book now? That's right the key word throughout my review and my overall impression of the book. Confidence. Love also. But to me I feel like I want to regain my composure stay calm and join a theatre company! I want to drink more water sing freely lose that puppy fat and engage in life!

Music is another great love and throughout sweet Sorrow the musicians mentioned it resonated with me so much. Mr Nicholls surely has the greatest of taste! You could write a million love songs and still not capture the love in this book. And with that I'm signing off for an imaginary pint with David. And Charlie and Fran Helen and Alex. It'll be some party!
Profile Image for Laura.
894 reviews74 followers
August 21, 2019
Book reviews on www.snazzybooks.com

Having eagerly anticipated the new novel by one of my favourite authors, David Nicholls, I hoped Sweet Sorrow would live up to the excellent standard of his previous novels. I'm glad to say it does; it's a beautifully written book that takes us through 16 year old Charlie's summer as he waits for his GCSE results. So in the sense of the characters in this book, it's obvious that they are very different to those in his previous novels, but no less likable.

For the first time ever Charlie falls in madly in love, and because of this (accidentally) ends up joining a theatre group who are putting on a performance of Romeo & Juliet. From there Charlie's world becomes our world, and I found myself taken back to my own teenage years (as a female, so obviously with a different perspective to Charlie and his friends, but with many elements of course the same). Nicholls' writing about this confusing and vital time in a teenager's life stirred in me a real feeling of nostalgia and, at times, poignancy, all of which carried through to the very last page and left me thinking about this book long after I finished it.

The writing in Sweet Sorrow is excellent, managing to be sweet and really lovely without feeling cloying or cheesy. I don't know if anything can really live up to the excellence ofUs for me, but as a main character Charlie felt more relatable and was incredibly entertaning, with some lines that really made me laugh. Wonderful reading for any time and any mood!

[4.5 stars bumped to 5]
Profile Image for ALPHAreader.
1,089 reviews
September 12, 2019
I am so deeply obsessed with everything that David Nicholls writes, a new book from him is like coming home or catching up with old friends.

All his books are destined to become well-worn copies. His latest is ‘Sweet Sorrow’ and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it. It has the sharp coming-of-age humour from ‘Starter For Ten’, mixed with the heady poignancy of first love that ‘One Day’ gave us - it’s the story of 16-year-old Charlie Lewis who meets Fran Fisher one summer, and will never be the same again;

🔆 “The four of us began our last walk home, turning the day into anecdote even before it was over.” 🔆

I love it, I love it, I love it - I’m marking so many passages within because the way he captures aimless, suburban youth is just *sublime*!
Profile Image for Amina Hujdur.
378 reviews17 followers
July 3, 2021
Jedan od boljih romana koji govori o tinejderskim godinama i srednjoškolskom odrastanju, a da nije kliše, sentiš ili površan.
Naprotiv, autor nam tako detaljno i psihološki oslikava problematični period odrastanja, sazrijevanja u problematičnoj porodici razvedenih roditelja, gdje sin odgaja oca, umjesto obrnuto.
Prva ljubav i očekivanja su tako realistično opisana da sam se u mnogim tragikomičnim situacijama i sama pronašla.

Posebno interesantan strukturni dio romana je priča u priči, tj.predstava Romeo i Julija V.Šekspira kao svojevrstan eksperiment koji će izvesti raznolika skupina glumaca amatera u sklopu regionalnog projekta oživljavanja Šekspirovih drama.

"Prva ljubav je kao glupava pop pjesma koju čuješ i pomisliš: ovo je sve što želim da slušam doveka, očito je najbolja melodija ikad napisana, ništa drugo mi ne treba. Naravno ne bi je nakon dvadeset godina pustili. Previše smo ogrubeli i iskusni i sofisticirani. Ali kad naiđe na radiju, to je i dalje dobra pesma."

"Dvadesete su mi bile surove. Mislila sam da će mi to biti naljepše doba. Toliko sam se nadala, zamišljala kako će to izgledati, kao kad te čeka neka žurka , pa planiraš šta da obučeš, spremiš svu odjeću i znaš kako ćeš da se ponašaš. Onda odeš i ljudi nisu fini prema tebi, muzika je grozna i svaki čas kažeš nešto što nije trebalo."
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