Sweet Sorrow...just might be the sweetest book to brighten your late summer ... Framing the story this way [in retrospect] enables Nicholls to both save it from saccharine dithering and to remind readers that we’ve all had our own sweet sorrows, first loves that, when recounted, might set other people’s teeth on edge ... Nicholls’s effortless distillation of this formative experience is enough to make a reader wonder if all first loves share some of the same chords. Combined with the humor he brings to this adolescent awakening, the novel is a lilting reminder of how, even as the years fly by, certain events loom huge in our minds.
...a beautiful paean to young love and teenage lust, the whole thing prevented from falling into schmaltz by the air of melancholy that hangs around it, the recognition that such loves do not last, that all about is 'the sound of summer packing its bags and preparing to leave town' ... Sweet Sorrow is a book that does what Nicholls does best, sinking the reader deep into a nostalgic memory-scape, pinning the narrative to a love story that manages to be moving without ever tipping over into sentimentality, all of it composed with deftness, intelligence and, most importantly, humour. We may think of Nicholls as a writer of heartbreakers – One Day prompted many poolside tears—but he has always been a comic novelist and Sweet Sorrow is full of passages of laugh-out-loud Inbetweeners-ish humour.
It is rare to read a novel with so many quotable quotes in it—which is why I said it is almost too good ... In all, it is a bravura performance from someone with a track record in fashioning books that are both eminently readable and emotionally subtle. Sentimentality is an underrated genre in some ways. Done well it is incredibly affecting (pace Oscar Wilde on the death of Little Nell), but it hard to get right. Sweet Sorrow manages to be interesting, moving, hilarious and sad at the same time. I know when my heartstrings are being pulled, but tugged they assuredly were.
Yes, this is 'boy meets slightly unattainable girl', so everyone can relax: we are nestled, firmly, in the David Nicholls sweet spot ... Nicholls’s literary talents are impressive ... The interesting thing about Nicholls’s fiction, given this megawatt success, is how essentially modest and gentle it is. His talent lies in heart-rending and witty explorations of fairly ordinary subjects ... Essentially an uplifting romantic, he manages not to diminish life’s knocks and setbacks, while presenting them as survivable. It is practically impossible to review a Nicholls book without using the word 'poignant' ... On this score, Sweet Sorrow does not disappoint: the sense of nostalgia is visceral and intense, almost time-bending. The danger, of course, is that this could all become saccharine and fey, but Nicholls is too astute to allow that to happen: he develops a darker layer to the story, underpinning Charlie’s universal experience of first love with a very specific, messed-up family situation ... I can’t help but wonder if Sweet Sorrow, with its perfectly honed British nostalgia and its focus on a supposedly “ordinary” boy, will have the desired effect on a reader who has not experienced an adolescence of drunkenness, bad eyeliner, pretentious talk and snogging in the wet summer grass, but perhaps these specifics will prove irrelevant; after all, as Shakespeare knew all too well, letting go of the past is a very human challenge.
Never does a Nicholls will-they-won’t-they romp go unrequitedly into that good night. The author...has a rarefied talent for teasing fondness from sore spots most would rather forget, finding the bruises a reader has tended and gently prodding them ... Charlie Lewis is a reluctant, curiously bland narrator, all the more frustrating given that we are stuck, in the first person, inside his head throughout ... We all have our thoughts of self-ennui, but being saddled with some else’s starts to drag. Are we to fill Charlie’s blanks? He certainly feels like an empty vessel, a faded Go Between left in the sun too long ... The sweltering inertia is relieved by brushfires of Nicholls’ crackling dialogue, sweeping up the readers and bearing them aloft on an updraft ... There is sweet sorrow in this deadbeat suburb ... But the plot lumbers — the furthest reaches of the map never feel explored ... Nostalgia is a place we shouldn’t linger in, Nicholls seems to say, and yet we tarry in still pools of it. The mundane doesn’t quite transmute. You wonder — was there much to tell?
It feels, however, as if Nicholls is playing it safe. There’s nothing exactly wrong with this novel, and Nicholls has such a fluid style you can’t object to spending time in the company of his characters. But the book never achieves lift-off: there isn’t enough at stake ... Charlie and Fran, alas, never rise above the commonplace. Charlie’s a nice enough kid; Fran is pretty much a blank canvas. She’s clever, and she seems to draw cleverness out of Charlie, but in a way that often feels too much like an out-take of When Harry Met Sally than the way two British teenagers might actually talk ... Sure, bad stuff happens, but not enough of it to heighten the book’s tension ... In the end, Sweet Sorrow offers consolation of a peculiarly anodyne kind. But the consolation of art must be bolder and more brutal. Hardy knew it; Shakespeare knew it; and Nicholls knows it too. Perhaps we’ll find it in his next novel, but it can’t be found here.
As with its two predecessors, Sweet Sorrow is an odd-couple romantic comedy, the story of a strong-willed artsy woman getting inexplicably entangled with a preening (One Day), prissy (Us), plodding (Sweet Sorrow) male philistine ... Frustratingly, though, the dramatic climax of the book is seriously underpowered and you can’t help feel that Nicholls has pulled the big punches. Which is not — as those who have read it will attest — something that can be said of One Day, which is much the best of the three books. But it is true of Us and unfortunately it’s this latter novel that Sweet Sorrow most closely resembles. Structurally, the books are uncomfortably similar and in both the use of a colourless first-person narrator allows Nicholls to get away with some fairly pedestrian prose and rope in, respectively, the grand masters and Shakespeare without ever really engaging with the work ... I can imagine how a success like One Day starts to exert its own powerful gravitational pull. It would be a great shame, though, if he were to spend the rest of his career writing in its shadow. It’s time now for him to move on from the rom-com, time now for Nicholls’ own reinvention.
Does any writer do nostalgia quite like David Nicholls? ... an ideal blend of the gently humorous and utterly heartfelt. It made me feel like something had swollen up inside my chest, and readers are liable to find their thoughts drifting over their own misspent school holidays or crushingly ardent first loves. Bag a copy immediately, because this has got 'perfect summer read' smeared all over it like so much factor 30 ... Although told by the adult Charlie, the writing is superbly alive to the way teenagers try to be arch and cool, while also feeling everything so deeply ... Nicholls is just gorgeous on the good bits of being a teenager ... Nicholls writes all the rubbish stuff too – and this doesn’t diminish the nostalgia, but rather makes the book feel more truthful and mature.
If there was an award for best title of a novel, send it to David Nicholls. Sweet Sorrow perfectly evokes the wistful longing for years long gone when the world was different, and so were we ... Sweet Sorrow, is remarkable for the emotional life that Nicholls gives to Charlie. His catalogue of firsts —love, sex and the growing awareness of the realities of life — has a real resonance. The line between sweet and twee is thin, but Nicholls mostly walks it and Charlie's story is heartfelt without being sentimental ... The plot is predictable and Sweet Sorrow isn't really a big enough story to justify its close-to 400 pages. It would have been a fine thing without the baggy middle and drawn-out ending, as a slimmer, razor-sharp novel: a little more Julian Barnes, a little less Nicholas Sparks. But there's pleasure in the leisurely pace ... This is a comfort read, a long soak in a warm nostalgic bath. Adolescence, that bittersweet minefield of discovery, is something we've all had to navigate and David Nicholls is a rare beast, a Booker longlistee...who writes crowd-pleasing bestsellers ... That makes him the perfect guide for revealing the sweet sorrow of Charlie's adolescence, thereby prompting his readers to remember their own.
Nicholls' leisurely, nostalgic, and often amusing novel traces the coming-of-age of an adolescent boy in 1997 Britain ... While the narrative stakes aren't very high and the plot ambles through some predictable paces, the developing relationship between the two young lovers is charming, with none of the feverish highs or lows of the play they often reference. Charlie and his theatrical colleagues make good company, and even the fraught family situation is satisfactorily resolved ... An old-fashioned, endearing romance for readers with time to spare.
A teenager experiences heady first love amid an amateur Shakespeare production in this amusing coming-of-age novel from Nicholls ... While the story lopes along fairly predictably, Nicholls excels at capturing Charlie’s insecurity, the messy exuberance of first love, and the coarseness of teenage male friendships. This doesn’t quite reach the heights of Nicholls’s previous work, but it is a good deal of fun.