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The Understudy

By David Nicholls

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Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Published In: United Kingdom, 01 September 2006
From the bestselling author of STARTER FOR TEN, ONE DAY and US, THE UNDERSTUDY is a scintillating comedy of ambition, celebrity, jealousy and love.For Josh Harper, being in show-business means everything he ever wanted - 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 is 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 for Stephen to get his Big Break?THE UNDERSTUDY is a scintillating comedy of ambition, celebrity, jealousy and love.

Promotional Information

A comedy masterpiece from the bestselling author of ONE DAY and STARTER FOR TEN.

About the Author

David Nicholls's TV credits include the third series of Cold Feet, Rescue Me, and I Saw You. He was co-writer for the film adaptation of Simpatico, which starred Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges and Sharon Stone. David's bestselling first novel, STARTER FOR TEN, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club in 2004, and David has written the screenplays for film versions of both STARTER FOR TEN (released in 2006, starring James MacAvoy)and THE UNDERSTUDY (not yet released).Davidalso wrote a modern version of Much Ado About Nothing for BBC TV, as part of a Shakespeare seasonscreened in 2005.


'A zippy comedy with laugh-out-loud lines, grounded on a solid plot and first-rate dialogue...irresistible' -- Daily Mail 20050408 'Bitterly funny' -- Observer 20050508 'A comic genius' -- Maria Beaumont on David Nicholls 20050211 'Darkly funny and oddly romantic.' -- More 20050501 'An unusual mix of cynicism and romance - no slush, just lots of laughs!' -- Company 20050505 'A brilliantly funny book.' -- Marie Claire 20050505 'Hugely entertaining with a high ratio of chuckles and snorts per chapter.' -- Good Book Guide 20050405 'I adored THE UNDERSTUDY. It's a fantastic comedy ... delightfully written.' -- New Woman 20050401 'A funky, less-fluffy-than-funny rom com.' -- Metro 20050414 'Deeply funny, with brilliant dialogue.' -- Good Housekeeping 20050401 'Sweet and funny.' -- Eve 20050505 Book of the Month -- Red 20050501 'Highly enjoyable ... both knowing and charming.' -- Mirror Ticket 20050325 'Both hilarious and heartbreaking.' -- Hannah Stephenson, various regional papers inc 20050329 'I laughed a lot' -- Jeremy Paxman on STARTER FOR TEN 20050329 'Moving, wickedly observed, warm, uplifting and above all blindingly funny, STARTER FOR TEN hits the spot time after time. Read this book' -- Jack on STARTER FOR TEN 20050329 'Brilliant... we would recommend it to anyone' -- Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan on STARTER FOR T 20050329 'Funniest book of the year' -- Marie Claire 20060101 'Romantic comedy with a charming British accent...plenty of material for screwball hilarity... His prose is laugh-out-loud funny... This jaunty, big-hearted novel is chick lit with a Y-chromosome.' -- Kirk US Reviews 20050815 'Brilliantly written and very funny' -- Closer, 4 stars 20050815 'Sharply funny...wonderfully chaotic' -- The Times 20050815 'The set pieces of social embarrassment are neatly threaded together, and there are some well-crafted tender moments too... It could hold its own against a Richard Curtis script' -- Independent on Sunday 20050815 'An entertaining follow-up to Nicholls' brilliant debut' -- Heat, top ten books for March 20050815

EAN: 9780340935217
ISBN: 0340935219
Publisher: Hodder Paperback
Dimensions: 20 x 14.3 x 2.7 centimetres (0.22 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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2 review(s)
All Reviews
Marianne on
“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 he had seen actors respond, hoping that it might somehow match up. Life seemed to be at its best, its truest and most intense when it resembled life as simulated on screen: full of jump cuts and slow motion, snappy exit lines and gentle fades to black”

The Understudy is the second novel by British author, screen writer and actor, David Nicholls. Stephen C. McQueen is an actor. Not a famous one, unless you count his performance as Sammy the Squirrel. Stephen has two CVs: the one he shows people; and the one in his head, set in that parallel universe where he gets his big break and everything works out. When he’s trying to impress his ex-wife and his daughter Sophie, he’s inclined to bend the truth a bit…..

At the moment, he’s the understudy for Josh Harper, playing Lord Byron in Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know. Josh, the 12th sexiest Man in the World, has a stellar career and a beautiful wife, Nora, although he blames his bad behaviour on insecurity, addiction to sex and low self-esteem. Stephen’s only chance for a Big Break is if something happens to Josh.

When Stephen meets Nora Harper, something clicks. They get on, and she makes him “feel smarter and funnier, more complicated, less shabby and mundane than he suspected he really was. She made him feel well cast, and in a central role too, rather than the understudy of some phantom other self”. Yep, he’s fallen in love.

Nicholls gives readers a wholly believable plot that will have them laughing out loud, wincing and shaking their heads at the antics of his protagonist. His characters are very humanly flawed and the behaviour of many is less than admirable. As Stephen wavers between the chance of his Big Break and the chance of love, he will strike the reader as staggeringly naïve, disappointingly selfish, heartbreakingly earnest and unbelievably stupid. And yet, we want him to succeed.

This one is a slow burn: Nicholls takes his time setting his scene and fleshing out his characters, and patience is rewarded with some beautiful descriptive prose, some excellent sitcom and a heartwarming ending. Recommended.
Chrissie on
Stephen C. McQueen is an understudy to the prince of theatre and the king of charm, Josh Harper. Stephen is portrayed as a middle-aged loser in life: divorced, out of shape, living alone in a dingy London flat with milk chilling on the windowsill, a failed actor, unless playing a dead thing or a masked door-opener counts and in love with somebody else's wife, all aiding his need to take to drink and make a tit of himself... However, he has a wonderful seven-year-old daughter, Sophie, who is the voice of reason, wisdom and encouragement.

The Understudy is brilliantly apt for readers who know any irritatingly ego and fashion obsessed dramas and Orlando Bloom/Keira Knightly wannabes!

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