The Understudy 4 – The End

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SPOILERS!!!

I really loved the book.

We don’t know what happens between Stephen and Nora, and the possibilities are open to your imagination at the end.

Stephen is the epitome of the anti-hero. He is a good guy, but is clearly unsuccessful. He is torn between helping Josh to get his big break, or doing the right thing by Nora. When Stephen tries to convince him to lie for him because he is meeting another woman, he decides to call some tabloid and tells them about Josh and the woman. It is in the newspapers the next day, and Nora is distraught. She even asks Stephen to stay with him for a few days, and even though he is reluctant to have her in his studio, he agrees. She gets the keys, and when he returns after the performance, he finds her groggy after drinking too much and ingesting some pills. Nora is quite nasty to him, offending him, but he is good to her.

The following day she apologises, and then he goes out to get some breakfast. He knows that sooner or later Nora will return to Josh as that was what she said, and he contemplates telling her how she feels. When he returns to the flat, he is taken aback as he finds Nara watching the video of his performance as Bernie the squirrel, and she also has the Bafta award that he took from her house. Stephen clumsily explains the film and the award, which puzzles Nora, and then in this dialectical exchange he ends up telling her he’s in love with her. Naturally, there is no heartfelt declaration from her part, and she decides to go. Stephen can’t hold her back, and he escorts her outside. Nora hugs her there, and in that moment there is a car, and Josh appears, calling Stephen a traitor. Josh is living and he starts beating Stephen, with little opposition. I felt so sorry for poor Stephen, and then Nora goes and hits Josh on the teeth with the Bafta award. This is the chance Stephen was longing for, and that evening he is step up for Josh as Byron in the play.

This is his big break, but Stephen is terrified. He has stage fright, and he even wishes something would happen to stop him from perform. Yet, he does, and at the beginning he is quite slow and unnatural, but then he sees Alison and Sophie there and things get better. The audience that night is small, only ten people, but at the end of the night he is happy when Alison and Sophie come to congratulate him. Sophie is ecstatic and keeps saying how amazing he has been. She even tells him that he is very proud of him and she is pretty sure he does it better than the other man, meaning Josh. However, then Stephen gets two terrible blows one after the other. First, Sophie lets away that Alison is going to have a baby. It feels like a slap on his face, but he pretends to be happy even though Alison keeps asking her if he is okay with it. In the end, he admits that it is in this instance that he has done his best performance, pretending to be happy for Alison and Sophie whereas in reality he is totally miserable. The second disappointment comes from his boss at the theatre. Because of the fight with Josh, which ended up with Josh losing some of his teeth and in bed, Stephen gets fired as Josh doesn’t want him in the theatre any longer. I find Josh’s character totally unlikeable. Stephen could be the antihero, but Josh is not hero either. He is pretentious, shallow, vain, and too full of himself.

On his way home Stephen reaches a decision. It is time he gave up. I think Alison’s previous speech about him not being good hurt him, but after having what he thinks is his big break, he realises that it is not so big after all, and he might never get his dreams. It is quite sad to see him this defeated, but it is a realistic reflection of life itself, but it was sad anyway.

Then in his flat he gets a nice surprise. Nora is there as Josh doesn’t want her any longer. They talk a bit; there are no loved-up scenes, and Nora tries to make heads or tails of his declaration, but she is not refusing him either. They have both lose their lives as they knew them, and then Stephen comes up with the crazy idea of them going on holiday to Paris together. Nora is reluctant at first, but then she agrees. The taxi stops by her house so that Nora can get her passport and she is gone a long time. Then she appears, tearful, but she doesn’t want to talk about it. The last scene is Nora and Stephen on the train on their way to Paris. We don’t know what might happen between them. Nora is not in love with Stephen, but she is fond of him, so it is not totally insane to think she might eventually love him. Or I wonder if she will recriminate Stephen for what she has lost. That would be quite unfair, because it wasn’t Stephen’s fault that her marriage didn’t work. It was Josh, who cheated on her. And after living with Josh, who had everything, I don’t know if she would be happy with Stephen, who has nothing.

I really love the book. It took me a bit to get into it, but then it was an absolutely good read. The novel is full of humour, but there is also a bitter note in the main character that you can’t be indifferent to.

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