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  • entertaining and thought-provoking

    Just Like You is the eighth novel by award-winning British author, Nick Hornby. When Lucy Fairfax and Joseph Campbell embark on their relationship, neither is looking too closely at the reasons, or the likely outcome: they are acting on mutual attraction, and find that they enjoy each other’s company. Lucy, a separated mother of two, is Head of the English Department at the local high school, forty-two years old and white. Joseph does various part-time jobs including, football coaching, baby-sitting and working in the local butcher’s, is twenty-two years old, and black. When they are together, they are happy. Despite their quite disparate backgrounds, they are interested in each other’s lives, enjoy their conversations (the coming Brexit vote is on everyone’s lips), and have great sex. Lucy’s young sons love spending time with Joseph, although there’s less of that now that he comes to spend time with Lucy instead of baby-sitting them. Because this is a covert relationship: they don’t go out. It is when the result of the Brexit vote is announced that they realise just how closeted their lives have become, and how different they really are. The relationship ebbs fairly swiftly if amicably. Joseph still babysits. They both date others. But is it really over? The insecurities that need to be soothed with reassurances in any relationship are a little different here, taking in race, age gap and level of education: “He was just a kid. He could see that now. It was because everything was new that he was embarrassed and raw. He wasn’t established in any field, really. He’d be bringing her stuff, like a puppy, for a long time to come, and she could only rub his belly and call him a good boy until he was an old dog with no new tricks.” The Brexit referendum backdrop allows Hornby to explore the effect of such an issue on everyday life: “Lucy understood it now. The referendum was giving groups of people who didn’t like each other, or at least failed to comprehend each other, an opportunity to fight. The government might just as well be asking a yes/no question about public nudity, or vegetarianism, or religion, or modern art, some other question that divided people into two groups, each suspicious of the other. There had to be something riding on it, otherwise people wouldn’t get so upset.” There are plenty of (sometimes darkly) funny moments in this tale, including kids who are much more aware than their mother thinks, a mother who twigs to her son’s activities via Find My Phone, and a confession by text. As well as heading in an unpredictable direction, Hornby’s latest is entertaining and thought-provoking.

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  • Charming tale

    I enjoy Nick Hornby’s books, this one included, in which he tackles mixed race and May-September relationships with his usual sense of humour. He also has a go at how political decisions like Brexit can polarize a nation. I enjoy his perceptive take on human frailty, and his sense of optimism. Although this charming tale didn’t make me laugh out loud as some of his books have, it was still a good read and I enjoyed meeting the characters. Given the current dark times, this says a lot.

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  • Tender & Funny

    It's quite a while since I’ve read a Nick Hornby novel, so when I spotted this one I thought I'd give it a whirl. Just Like You is a love story set in a period of time leading up to the referendum and beyond. Protagonist Lucy is white, middle class, in her early forties and teaches English at a state secondary school. Separated from alcoholic and drug addict husband Paul, she lives in North London with their two sons Al and Dylan. This wonderfully entertaining tale begins with an amusing scene at the local butchers, between Lucy and her friend, Emma. Joseph, the other protagonist, is black, twenty-two, works part-time at the butcher's, is a lifeguard at the leisure centre, is also a part-time football coach, babysits and occasionally DJ's. He attends church every Sunday with his mum, with whom he still lives. Lucy and Joseph are polar opposites, and nobody could have predicted that they would be a match as they met over the butcher counter. But sometimes it turns out that the person who can make you happiest is the one you least expect... With humour present from the outset, Nick Hornby bestows the reader with intelligent, astute and tender insight into a relationship that defies ordinary societal boundaries. As Lucy and Joseph venture into a relationship, they face hurdles in terms of their ages, differing political and cultural backgrounds and the narrow mindedness of others. I absolutely loved the humour and dialogue between many of the characters in this book. Conversations between Lucy and Joseph highlighted their many differences. Although there were other fellas who might have been a better match for Lucy, I found myself found wanting their relationship to survive even knowing they faced an uphill battle. There was a lack of bitterness or recrimination which is unusual in a love story, especially when there are hurdles to overcome. The characters were emotionally mature so that Lucy came across as calm, efficient and pragmatic in dealing with her feelings for a younger man. Joseph, for his part, was an untypical twenty-two-year-old, displaying great maturity yet still able to indulge his immature side when he wanted to. Nick Hornby's intelligent style of writing allowed the descriptions of their relationship to be realistic and insightful. Just Like You was easy to read, and I could engage fully with Lucy and Joseph’s predicament. I thoroughly enjoyed watching their progression as a couple, and I appreciated that this love story was not sugary sweet or too sentimental. Though questions were raised about acceptance of relationships between people from different backgrounds, this was approached with a light, comedic slant that did not deter me from reading on. An appealing, wise and funny novel that should not be missed. I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Penguin via NetGalley at my request, and this review is my own unbiased opinion.

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