Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
It’s a complicated love story. A story that shouldn’t be. Because how could it possibly work out between a 22-year-old wannabe DJ and a 42-year-old divorced mum? And if only the age difference was the only problem…
The interesting thing about Nick Hornby’s Just Like You is that by the time you notice what the story is about, you are already way into it, but looking back, all the elements were there all along. Literally from the first page, we are introduced to some of the main themes: status (or class, if you prefer) and race.
Between all the big headlines about Brexit and Black Lives Matter, this is a small story of just two people living their life; this is small, and personal, and real. It starts with a line at the butcher’s, Joseph being described as Denzel Washington and a customer willing to pay more than £100 for meat, while Joseph is almost ashamed to ask for such a big sum. Such simple two lines of dialogue laid out the themes without anyone taking any notice of it. And then there is Brexit. We are taken back to that time (which now feels like a lifetime ago) when the vote was coming up and some started rallying, others took voting “in” as such an obvious choice, they weren’t even sure it was worth going to vote for. Surely there was no way Brexit could happen?
So here they are: She is white, middle-class, a well-read teacher and head of English, he is young, black, working class and babysitting her sons. Yet somehow, they end up together and suddenly, they have a lot to face. Can you make a relationship work when two are so different? Is it even a relationship? Or is it a bit of fun? Surely it is just temporary… but does that mean you need to end it, just because you know it will eventually?
Yes, this is about a relationship, but much more it is about what it stands for, and to me it was almost a social experiment: At what point do you notice the themes? Which scene makes you uncomfortable? What shocks you? This takes us away from the international debates and takes us right back to two people who are dealing with everything on the small scale of their relationship. And it turns out, the problems are there. Right there in front of us are racism and the clashing of social classes. We just try to look away.
Please note, that some of the links within this article may be affiliate links and we may make a small commission on purchases through them.
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd ISBN: 9780241338551