Us: A Novel by David Nicholls

  • US  Us coverTitle:  Us: A Novel
  • Author:  David Nicholls
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  October 2014 – Harper
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

David Nicholls brings the wit and intelligence that graced his enormously popular New York Times bestseller, One Day, to a compellingly human, deftly funny new novel about what holds marriages and families together—and what happens, and what we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart.

Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie.

Narrated from Douglas’s endearingly honest, slyly witty, and at times achingly optimistic point of view, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves, and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger. Us is a moving meditation on the demands of marriage and parenthood, the regrets of abandoning youth for middle age, and the intricate relationship between the heart and the head. And in David Nicholls’s gifted hands, Douglas’s odyssey brings Europe—from the streets of Amsterdam to the famed museums of Paris, from the cafés of Venice to the beaches of Barcelona—to vivid life just as he experiences a powerful awakening of his own. Will this summer be his last as a husband, or the moment when he turns his marriage, and maybe even his whole life, around?  (publisher)

My take: Douglas and Connie have been together for almost 25 years. They’re about to go on a European tour with their 17 year-old son when Connie tells Douglas she may want to leave him. This seems to come from nowhere and Douglas isn’t sure what to do. She wants to go on their holiday – making him think he can convince her not to leave him when they return. 

What follows is a road trip that had me laughing, wincing (at the things Douglas says to his wife and son), and feeling quite sad for the three of them as they near the end of the trip. The one I felt the most sympathy was their son, Albie. I won’t spoil by saying why but suffice to say, being the child, he suffered the strongest emotional toll.

Most novels I’ve read about marriage and children have been written by female authors. I was impressed by the emotional tone David Nicholls gave his story. It rang true. The story is told from Douglas’s POV and alternates from when Douglas and Connie first met 25 years ago to present day.

My biggest quibble is the length of the book – 400+ pages.  It seemed to drag a bit in the middle – maybe I’m in the minority on this issue. I’d recommend Us to fans of David Nicholls and novels about marriage and family.

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