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A Question of Attraction: A Novel Hardcover – April 13, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This entertaining first novel by an English television writer tells the story of Brian Jackson, an unworldly but affable college freshman whose main ambition in life is to compete on the BBC quiz show University Challenge (a Jeopardy-like game show in which schools compete against each other; in the U.K., the show is a national institution). Between securing one of the four coveted spots on his school's team for the show, Brian chases after two girls: Alice, a beautiful but aloof actress who is also on the squad, and Rebecca, an artsy intellectual who thinks Brian's ambition to be on the show is silly and bourgeois. A visit from Brian's hometown pal Spencer brings the class tensions roiling beneath the novel's surface to the fore, but Nicholls is more interested in comedy than pathos. Some of the humor is very British ("I'm sharing my house with a right pair of bloody Ruperts"), and Nicholls waxes overly nostalgic for his 1980s setting, but the writing is often sharp and funny (number four on Brian's list of New Year's resolutions: "Become lightly muscled"). Unexpected developments at the final University Challenge match bring the novel to a rather unlikely conclusion, but readers will root for hapless, engaging Brian as he struggles his way out of adolescence.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* British scholarship student Brian Jackson has high hopes for his first term at university. He wants to go to classical-music concerts and know when to clap; conduct reasoned debates, saying things like, "Define your terms"; eat exotic foods that sound barely edible; and make love to sophisticated, intimidating women "during daylight or with the light on, even." Most of all, he wants to appear with his school team on the TV quiz show University Challenge, a desire born of fond memories of watching the program with his late father. Unfortunately a few things stand in his way--his humble background is no match for that of his posh peers, he is overly fond of gin and lager, and he is engaged in an ongoing medicated soap opera with his severely blemished skin. But Brian is nothing if not brave, and he throws himself into his quest for wider experience with abandon, landing a spot on the quiz team and falling head over heels for beautiful, wealthy Alice. In his first novel, which has all the hallmarks of a classic coming-of-age story, Nicholls creates one droll, perfect set piece after another. From Brian's James Brown-like dance moves to his excruciating encounter with Alice's naked parents, this is sublime and brilliant comedy. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; First U.S. Edition edition (April 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400061814
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400061815
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,632,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A Question of Attraction is a rare thing: a novel that entertains intelligently and humorously. As the novel begins, Brian Jackson, the eighteen year old narrator of this charming novel is about to set off for university in England during the mid-1980s, leaving his widowed mother, friends and working class background. Brian yearns to have knowledge, to learn, to have witty conversation, to meet that certain special gorgeous supremely intelligent someone. He gets to college and spends a bit more time than he would like recovering from hangovers and pining away after Alice, the perhaps unattainable girl of his dreams. He finally gets to fulfill a life-long dream: he will represent his university on University Challenge, a quiz type game show. This novel is funny, witty, heartwarming and endearing (but not sappy, not by a longshot). It's great fun to read. David Nichols is sort of like a British Tom Perrotta--he makes writing a funny and thoughtful novel look effortless. Enjoy.
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Format: Hardcover
I was impressed with my first read by David Nicholls. Usually, I tend to stay with "chick lit" or novels with female characters because I can relate better but I am so glad that I chose to try something different.
A Question of Attraction is about the coming of age for a kid in England named Brian Jackson. He has just graduated high school and will study "Eng Lit" at University. Brian, a self proclaimed geek likes games shows (think Jeopardy) dressing in his late father's clothes, drinking and listening to Cate Bush.
Brian is smitten (think stalker) with the beautiful Alice whom he meets at school. Brian attempts to impress her with dinner, poems, dancing but something always happens to make his good intentions backfire. These make VERY GOOD laugh*out*loud moments!
I thought for sure that girls had it rough growing up, but I might actually have to think twice about that statement. My heart breaks for Brian who is trying to find out who he is. From the top of his 'oozie red boil infested face' to the bottom of his wet muddy shoes (think stalker again).
I would like to believe that Brian grows up (and out of his acne) to be a wonderful, intelligent person with a promise of a great life.
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Format: Hardcover
Eighteen year old Brian Jackson has high expectations for his imminent trip to University to study English lit. He hopes to expand his mind and also to have sex in a bed (instead of against a trash can, the first and last time he's had sex in the past). Initially he thinks his friend from home, drop out Spence, is way off beam when he criticizes university as a total waste of time, "Reading poetry and wanking into your sock for three years."

But pretty soon after arriving at his establishment of learning, Brian's ideals have died, he finds his lectures incomprehensible, he's frequently too hungover to focus and he's got a go-nowhere crush on a fantasy figure girl called Alice, a fledgling actress and experienced prick tease. Seems like maybe Spence knew what he was talking about, after all ...

A bittersweet coming of age novel that involves you so thoroughly, that by the end you will hate to leave Brian, his acne and his incredibly unique sense of humour.
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Format: Paperback
When I first found this novel while cruising a bookstore, I nearly passed it by without taking it off the shelf. I also nearly put it back on the shelf once I had it down. Why? Well, from the cover description, Mr. Nicholls' work sounds like yet another self-indulging shuffle back in time to when the author was young. Let's face it, too many writers go back to their youth and create a pseudo-memoir of how they wish it had been. I expected that's what this was.

But guess what? I was WAY off the mark and am so glad I didn't go with my first impression. A Question of Attraction is an engrossing, funny, witty (NOT the same thing as funny) tale of Brian Jackson, a likable and problem-prone young Englishman from the year 1985. We tag along as he wades through the standard agonies of late adolescent growing pains and look on at his adjustments to an inundation of rapid changes to his life. His working-class past has not always been happy, but Brian emerges from it a relatively optimistic, if self-deprecating, figure and we quickly root for this charming underdog as he starts university with two major goals. Brian's first goal is to be a contestant on a collegiate quiz show favored by his late father; his second and more all-consuming hope, is he wants to gain the love of Alice Harbinson, a leftist, petite-bourgeoisie princess who is also a first-year student at Brian's college. Even while we want things to work out for Brian Jackson, we cringe on his behalf as he pursues the beautiful, flighty Alice, a girl surely he, like we, know is unattainable for a young man of his status (read social class) and personal aptitude.
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Format: Hardcover
I LOVE this book! It's incredibly witty, charming, insightful and very well written. I look forward to reading anything and everything else by David Nicholls.
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