This is the first Nick Hornby novel I’ve read in a while, although I’ve certainly read most of his more famous work. I couldn’t quite put a handle on why I’d stopped reading him, but I definitely enjoyed this new work.
Lucy is a white school teacher in her forties who’s getting over a breakdown in her relationship with an ex- who’s addictions seem to have been the cause of many things. Meanwhile Joseph is a young black Londoner who holds a few different jobs and comes from a different world. He lives with his mum, and leads the sort of generally flighty lifestyle that you’d expect the average 21-year old to lead.
Lucy and Joseph cross paths in an upmarket butcher where the Saturday queue runs out of the door, and where patrons might spend three-digits on their vital cuts of meat.
The novel is a story of how these two seemingly very different worlds collide and what kind of relationship might be possible between a couple separated on so many levels. Added to this is the 2016 setting against the lead-up to the Brexit referendum. While neither of these two characters are especially politically aware, the two-sides of the Brexit are an added layer to what’s going on in Lucy and Joseph’s own lives.
As you’d expect with a book from Nick Hornby, there are some very funny lines with Joseph’s thoughts perhaps providing some of the best. When he meets a man with a dog named Senna, we’re told that, “Joseph guess that he’d been named after Ayrton Senna, because this guy was the sort of a***hole who liked Formula One.” On another occasion he finds himself confused by eyebrows: “He didn’t know what function eyebrows were supposed to perform, but whatever it was, they weren’t there to be looked it. So if you ended up looking, it seemed to him that something had gone wrong.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and despite any preconceptions you might have about the situation, it all feels very real and believable. Indeed the political naivety of some of the characters is perhaps the most unbelievable, although I think Hornby fairly nails the thinking of some parts of society during that Brexit campaign.
Thanks to the NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book in return for an honest review. Just Like You is published in hardback and ebook on 17 September 2020.