Sixteen-year-old Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. He’s failing his classes. At home he looks after his depressed 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. But when Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope.
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.