Us, David Nicholls
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 30th 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton
Source: E-ARC from Edelweiss
‘I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.’
‘Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?’
Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home.
He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together.
So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.
The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.
What could possibly go wrong?
After reading the synopsis for Us I was kind of afraid this was going to be a depressing novel. I am so happy that I was wrong. With the ending line of the description “what could possibly go wrong?” I also feared it would be a farce. Again, I was wrong. What Us was in the end was an honest and touching look at a marriage over time and over a family who loves each other despite their differences. This was a reminder that not every couple may be happier together, no matter how much they love each other.
As the Petersen’s leave for their Grand Tour of Europe Douglas takes a look back at his life with Connie. From the day they met, their wedding and the early cracks in their marriage, to the childhood of their son Albie. Douglas describes Albie– “nicknamed Egg, to whom I am devoted, but who sometimes regards me with a pure and concentrated disdain, filling me with so much sadness and regret that I can barely speak.” Can’t you just see that look?
Douglas and Connie are a mismatch of a couple. She’s a free-spirited artist and Douglas is a straight-laced biochemist. Albie follows much more closely in Connie’s footsteps to Douglas’ dismay. Douglas wants Albie to be prepared for the future and able to fend for himself financially. Poor Albie only sees criticism when Douglas tries to encourage him. An epic fight over breakfast leads to Douglas wondering if he will ever repair his relationship with his son. The lengths Douglas goes to do become a bit farcical, but are still sweet and a sign of his determination to be a good parent.
As the reader views Douglas and Connie’s marriage over the years you will not be surprised to when Connie tells Douglas the end is near. In their case opposites attracted, but their differences also wedge firmly in between them. But when you read the love that they have had between them you won’t want it to be over either. I loved this look both into a marriage and into a father trying to understand his son. This was a beautiful written book and I will definitely be seeking out Nicholls’ past work.
All quotes were taken from an uncorrected galley proof subject to change in the final edition
Thank you Harper Collins and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!