“I love you is an interesting phrase, in that apparently small alterations–taking away the I, adding a word like lots or loads–render it meaningless.” – Us
I have just finished reading Us by English author, David Nicholls and I am very glad I finally got around curling up with this narrative. Having loved the quirky characters of Dexter and Emma in this writer’s contemporary classic, One Day, I was almost afraid to open the pages of this more recent offering, feeling it was destined to disappoint. I tend to love books as opposed to authors. Illogically perhaps, if I am mesmerised by one offering, subsequent efforts by the same author tend to disappoint. But happily this was an exception to challenge a rule. The fact is, I really enjoyed this story, finding the central protagonist, the mild-mannered Douglas Petersen, thoroughly absorbing.
We are catapulted into Douglas’ life, when after thirty years together, his wife, Connie, tells him she is going to leave him. However, before they separate, she still wants them to embark on their planned Grand Tour of Europe, with their seventeen year old son Albie. Madness? Perhaps. But Douglas hopes that the trip will help him rekindle his relationship with Connie and break down the wall that seems to exist between him and his son. Things do not, however, proceed exactly as planned and so we are absorbed in the emotional rollercoaster that Douglas, Connie and Albie are travelling on.
The strength of this novel is in the honesty of the narrator, Douglas. A deeply flawed character, his sincerity and honesty really reeled me in and I found myself rooting for this droll, self-deprecating anti-hero, even when he was making very poor decisions. There is a dual narrative at play here as we are transported over and back between the present and the past. But the same questions permeate both strands of the plot. Will Connie and Douglas’ relationship survive?
This was a light read, deftly crafted, serious and heartbreaking in places but with frequent comic touches. I like that it takes the opposites attract, fall in love and get married cliché and looks at it from a completely different angle. What happens as the years pass and you are married to a man you love but have little in common with?
I would recommend this as a charming book to while away a winter’s holiday afternoon under a duvet! Give it a go, it is worth the read x