A Question of Attraction Summary
by David Nicholls

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A Question of Attraction

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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Brian Jackson’s search for a new identity as a university student is the premise of David Nicholls’s A Question of Attraction, a hilarious first novel which takes place in Great Britain in the mid-1980’s. Brian, suffering from a raging identity crisis, hopes to become a new person at college, one who will talk of metaphysical poets, drink port out of tiny glasses, dine on exotic foods, and use words like “eponymous,” and phrases like “define your terms.” He imagines he will “make love to beautiful, sophisticated, intimidating women, during daylight or with the light on.”

Unfortunately for Brian (and fortunately for the reader), college life does not turn out quite the way he has imagined, as he falls in love with the impossibly beautiful and rich Alice Harbison his first night on campus, and spends every day thereafter mooning over her in alternating states of being drunk and hung-over. His grades suffer, and as one of his professors points out. “it would seem you’re actually becoming less intelligent, which strangely enough, is not what an education is for.”

Despite his best intentions to “spend more time working on my poetry,” and “become lightly muscled,” Brian continues to stumble his way through college, while alienating Spencer and Tone, his best friends from home, and messing up a possible relationship with the cute, intelligent Rebecca. Eventually, Brian begins to achieve a glimmer of maturity when he realizes that “this notion that there’s this wise, smart, funny, kind, brave Real Me running around somewhere out there is a bit of a fallacy.”

A Question of Attraction breathes new life into the coming-of-age novel, creating refreshingly original characters, and a laugh-out-loud scene on almost every page.