27 March 2009

The Understudy (David Nicholls)

"Funniest book of the year" MY ASS Marie Claire.

I know, I know, I shouldn't take book recommendations from a women's magazine but honestly, I thought that comment at least indicated this would be a diverting, light-hearted read.

The Understudy was the singularly most depressing novel I have read in my entire life. Admittedly, this may be a slight exaggeration. But this was not good depressing. Good depressing is a novel you can seriously wallow in. It reduces you to frantic tears and staring at yourself in the mirror, tugging your hair and imagining yourself playing the part of the heroine in the film. This was cringy, pathetic, snivelling and pseudo-realistic depressing... not enjoyable AT ALL.

Stephen C. McQueen (no relation) is a struggling actor. His ex-wife and young daughter think he's a loser, his agent can't remember his name and he is currently playing the part of "Ghostly Figure" in a West End hit, which requires he be on stage for fifteen seconds of the entire production. David Nicholls is good with the one-liners, but they're relentless and a pathetic band aid for the failure that Stephen's life is.

The problem with the humour is that nothing funny actually happens in the novel, just amusing descriptions of seriously depressing events. Thus, although you want to throw yourself off a bridge after reading this, you will be compelled to do it in an ironic fashion, with a jaunty parting line to the mocking crowd. Unfortunately, there will be a protruding ledge which will hamper your death fall and instead leave you crippled for life. The wheelchair you will be compelled to use will be bought for you by your best friend with the inappropriate sense of humour and thus will be equipped with flashing multi-coloured lights, a siren and streamers on the handles. As a get-well present, someone will buy you this book to cheer you up and start the whole tragic cycle all over again.

Rating: 3/10.
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