I have long enjoyed books by Nick Hornby, fellow Arsenal fan and Highbury dweller (see my blog on holiday paperbacks), so as soon as it came out in paperback I read his latest novel Just Like You. It’s the story of forty-two year-old white single mum of two kids, Lucy, and Joseph, who is black, twenty-two, an aspiring DJ, but who is currently working in Lucy’s local butcher shop and the local leisure centre.
Lucy and Joseph couldn’t be more different. Lucy is dealing with an alcoholic ex, who she is not yet divorced from, and who occasionally turns up drunk on her front steps. She is a busy head of department at a local comprehensive school and her group of friends are very middle-class, affluent, North Londoners, smug and self-satisfied and boring each other to tears at various dinner parties. Joseph finds his peers equally irritating, lives with his Mum who is always trying to persuade him to go to church, and enjoys hanging out with Lucy’s boys when babysitting, talking football and playing on the Xbox.
They each end up on some pretty disastrous dates with the sort of people they ‘should’ be seeing, Lucy with an author who earnestly tells her that the sex is likely to be bad, and Joseph with an amazing singer who cannot believe he doesn’t want sex on their first date. Meanwhile, their attraction to each other is simmering every time Lucy enters the butcher’s shop or whenever Joseph babysits. Eventually nature takes its course and they get together.
It’s not plain-sailing and they each battle with their parents, friends, embarrasment and knowledge that it is never going to last, until they break-up and both make a go of relationships with other people. The backdrop to all of this is the run-up to, and aftermath of, the Brexit vote. Lucy and her friends are appalled when the country votes to leave, whilst Joseph’s Dad is a staunch Brexiteer, and Joseph himself just wishes everyone would shut up about it.
I was gripped until the very last page, wanting to know how it would all end. It’s a crackingly good read.