I must admit that Sweet Sorrow was the first book that I have read by David Nicholls. It was slow in the beginning and there were a few times when I almost gave up on it but I am glad that I did not. I struggled between rating Sweet Sorrow a three star or four star rating and finally decided on four. Although it was a very long time ago, I remember being Charlie Lewis’ age and falling in love for the first time. It brought back fond memories.
Charlie Lewis was a sixteen year old boy who grew up in the late 1990’s. His family, like most other children, shaped Charlie and impacted his life. Children cannot choose their parents. In Charle’s case, his parents discovered the hard way, that they were not suited for each other. He was exposed to constant bickering and screaming between his parents. His father had to declare bankruptcy and his mother kept finding more and more faults with him. When his mother finally decided to leave his father, she took Charlie’s younger sister with her and left Charlie to live with his father. These decisions and actions impacted Charlie’s life tremendously. He began to hate his mother but also in the same breath wanted her back. Charlie became his father’s caretaker and constantly worried that his father would commit suicide and that he would come home and be the one to find him. He could not concentrate on his exams due to all his family problems he was recently handed. Charlie worried that he failed his exams and that his future would be a total disaster. No sixteen year old boy should have been left on his own with no one to confide in and with no one to offer him guidance during this stressful and impressionable time of his life. Charlie Lewis saw himself as the type of boy that had no redeeming or memorable qualities.
Then one day, Charlie met Fran. He was at the right place at the right time. Charlie was smitten at first glance. He discovered that Fran was part of the Full Fathom Five Theatre Co-operative or the Company as it’s members referred to themselves. The only way for Charlie to see Fran again was to join the Company. Charlie discovered that the Company was going to perform Romeo and Juliet that summer. He would have to become part of the Company, have a part in the production, and spend his summer doing this if he wanted to see Fran. Despite every excuse Charlie could manage to come up with, his desire to see Fran won out. Over the course of the summer, Charlie began to hope, he had hope for a better life, becoming a better person and mending his relationship with his father. He and Fran ultimately fell in love. What could be any more special than your “first love”? Fran and the others in the Company saw a different version of Charlie. Charlie began to see a new and more positive purpose in his life.
Twenty years later, Charlie was anxiously awaiting his wedding to Niamh. He had gone to university and now had a successful job, friends a much healthier and positive life. Then he received an invitation to the Full Fathom Theatre Co-operative for the actors and actresses that were in their productions taking place from 1996-2001. Charlie and Niamh knew that Charlie had to go. That summer kept running through Charlie’s mind. It was hard for him to let it go. He had to see Fran, all his friends from that time and finally confront his former self and come to terms with everything that occurred that summer.
Sweet Sorrow, part of a line from Romeo and Juliet, was about an adolescent coming to terms with life and about the innocence and the fireworks felt by a first love. It was about the dynamics of family and how the choices and actions of the people who brought you up could impact your life both positive and negative. Father-son relationships as well as Mother-son relationships, both the good and bad, were discovered. It was not easy for Charlie growing up with the turmoil going on within his family. The people he looked up to and needed most were not there for him at that most impressionable time of his life.It was about friendship and finding acceptance. Sweet Sorrow came full circle and Charlie, a grown man at the end of the story, could look at his life now in a way he could not have done all those years before. I highly recommend reading Sweet Sorrow when it is published in May 2020. Thank you to Bookish First, David Nicholls and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for affording me the opportunity to read this advanced copy of Sweet Sorrow. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.