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Just Like You Reviews

Just Like You by Nick Hornby

Just Like You

Nick Hornby

3.53 out of 5

9 reviews

Imprint: Viking
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 17 Sep 2020
ISBN: 9780241338551

Nick Hornby's brilliantly observed, tender and brutally funny new novel gets to the heart of what it means to fall headlong in love with the best possible person - someone who may not be just like you at all.

4 stars out of 5
3 Oct 2020

"Hornby has built a career on capturing emotional nuance"

With the confidence of a pro, Hornby delivers an entertaining tale of modern romance and the value of living in the moment. The canvas is strikingly domestic and the tone wry, intimate, bittersweet. Its success hinges on protagonists so vivid and self-aware that their relationship seems inevitable (although Joseph’s reflections sometimes feel more fifty- than twenty-something). There are clichés — Lucy’s teacherly pedantry, Joseph’s aspirations to be a DJ. But overall, Just Like You is a thoughtful story about love against the grain in a Britain divided by political tribalism and identity politics.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
1 Oct 2020

"devastatingly poignant while also illuminated by the characteristic Hornby wit"

Hornby presents us with a contemporary love story nestled in a Brexit novel – reading pre-pandemic political strife feels akin to picking at the scab of fresh wounds – but the juxtaposition between Britain’s problems with racism on a macro level and the micro-aggressions experienced by Joseph and witnessed by Lucy works extremely well. Graham Greene spoke of the “splinter of ice in the heart of a writer”, and this mellow read from Hornby suggests a slight thawing on his part. But perhaps that is just what we need: good company, great laughs and a gentle poking reminder of the humanity of those we think we don’t understand.

3 stars out of 5
Cordelia Jenkins
25 Sep 2020

"An unlikely north London romance suggests that love can overcome tribalism"

It is hard to reconcile this feeling of weightlessness with the emotional acuity of Hornby’s earlier work — whether the paranoid urgency that runs through High Fidelity or the poignant dissection of a marriage in How To Be Good. In the end, perhaps Just Like You is too much a novel of its times. After all, for those still mourning the shocks of 2016, waiting in hope and without much reason to expect a happy ending has come to feel like an end in itself.

4 stars out of 5
Sarah Ditum
24 Sep 2020

"...a quietly brave novel"

Just Like You has plenty of witty observation, zeroing in on the cringe of white people fishing for black approval and the adorable embarrassment of the age gap (Joseph can barely stand it when Lucy uses the word “boogie” in relation to one of his tracks), and Joseph’s inspiration on how to vote is a funny moment.

It’s an annoying moment too. One of the problems with the rash of Brexit novels is that novelists as a group tend to be Remain-inclined. Robust and sympathetic pro-Leave characters are consequently in short supply... In other ways, though, it’s a quietly brave novel. Lucy is resigned to the superfluity of the novel as a form — despite her students’ lack of literary inclinations, she notes that they “were becoming valuable and valued members of society without the help of fiction”. But Hornby is making a modest argument for his art, sliding into the consciousness of two people who are not like him and showing how their mutual affection can cut through the seemingly fixed lines of society. On that point, Just Like You is an endearing success.

3 stars out of 5
Francesca Angelini
20 Sep 2020

"Just Like You is readable, and shot through with Hornby’s deft comic touch"

With screenplays including Brooklyn and An Education and novels such as Funny Girl (2014), Hornby moved with the times, writing convincing lead female protagonists. So you presume it’s with the zeitgeist in mind that he has made the bold move of writing half of his latest novel from the perspective of a working-class black man. Set during the Brexit referendum, Just Like You unfolds on Hornby’s north London home turf. Lucy is a 42-year-old English teacher with two young football-mad sons. She is finalising her divorce from their father, a recovering alcoholic who still likes to turn up wasted on her doorstep.

4 stars out of 5
18 Sep 2020

"The Brexit backdrop is surplus to requirements in this funny, age-gap love story with genuinely likable protagonists"

As ever, the true delight of a Hornby novel lies in his extraordinarily acute social observation, and in the sheer brilliance of exchanges that sing, zing and capture every nuance of real speech. The book seems almost TV-ready, as page after page of breathtakingly recognisable dialogue is laid out like a screenplay, and even texts seem lifted straight off the phone. The school quiz night with its Mexican buffet and entitled liberals treating Joseph like “an unexploded bomb” is a masterpiece of farce.

4 stars out of 5
David Robinson
18 Sep 2020

"Age, race and class are all barriers to be jumped over by the lovers in Nick Hornby’s acutely observed and tender novel"

Hornby has had a good eye for the way we live now, whether it’s on-trend music, double-screening children, teen argot du jour (“mandems” anyone?), DJ dreams or – at the other end of the age range – post-divorce parenting and Viagra etiquette. Perhaps he makes more than he needs to of setting his novel at the time of the Brexit referendum, but even this cannot spoil such a well-told, thoughtful, tender and occasionally devastatingly funny love story.

2 stars out of 5
Claire Allfree
10 Sep 2020

"he’s prone here to the literary equivalent of dad dancing at a wedding"

Hornby’s great skill as a writer is his genial scrutinising of social mores, but from a sentence-by-sentence point of view he’s becoming flabbier with each passing novel. Worse, he’s prone here to the literary equivalent of dad dancing at a wedding. A couple of times he lapses into urban slang — Jaz, a friend of Joseph’s, calls Lucy “a grey ting”. And it’s curious that Joseph should call out Lucy when she assumes he knows many singers because of his race, when Hornby reinforces the odd cultural stereotype himself — Joseph loves football and wants to be a DJ... Hornby’s quixotic faith in his characters’ determination to be together is touching but it’s hard to share when the relationship itself rarely rings true.

4 stars out of 5
Sam Leith
9 Sep 2020

"t may not have fire in its belly, but it has great warmth in its heart."

Hornby is surefooted around all these issues, amiable and forgiving. On Brexit, he has Lucy decide: “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.” Does he tell us much that we don’t already know or think we don’t already know? On this I’m not sure. Just Like You – as a comedy of class difference and of the soft racism of bien-pensant liberals – invites comparison with Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age and seems to me to lack some of that novel’s sharpness. I don’t think there’s much in here to challenge or discomfit.

But why should there be? It is frequently funny, consistently engaging and it’s not primarily a sociological treatise or a satire: it’s a love story. It may not have fire in its belly, but it has great warmth in its heart.