‘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?” ~ Goodreads
Us (October 28, 2014) is the latest Contemporary novel from David Nicholls since One Day, almost five years ago, AND the first book I reviewed here on The Daily Dosage. I saw the enormous advertisement banner at BEA and was shocked that he was coming out with another book. I tried my very best to get my hands on one but no such luck. I then found out TLC Book Tours was doing a book tour for it and was ecstatic to be part of it.
The first person narrative of 54-year-old Douglas Petersen was so engaging, witty and insightful that I couldn’t put the book down. His wife of twenty-five years reveals that she feels that their marriage has run it’s course just before they are about to embark on a month long tour of Europe with their teenage son Albie, before he heads off to college. Of course like most men, he didn’t see it coming. He didn’t see the signs, for Douglas is a very simple, pragmatic, yet intelligent man. He never thought he would find someone as charismatic and quite the polar opposite as Connie and these “episodes” of him looking back into their lives are beautiful to read.
“Of course, after nearly a quarter of a century, the questions about our distant pasts have all been posed and we’re left with ‘how was your day?’ and ‘when will you be home?’ and ‘have you put the bins out?’ Our biographies involve each other so intrinsically now that we’re both on nearly every page. We know the answers because we were there, and so curiosity becomes hard to maintain; replaced, I suppose, by nostalgia.”
Douglas is so in love with his wife that it just permeates off the pages. I started to feel really sad for this gentleman who “needed” this woman in his boring life so badly. Not so much needed but truly appreciated all of her differences as a wake up call to his reserved life. But Nicholls is one of the masters whose ability to write tender hearted scenes mixed with hilarious laugh-out-loud moments and sharp dialogue kept me up ’til the wee hours devouring this novel.
“Light travels differently in a room that contains another person; it reflects and refracts so that even when she was silent or sleeping I knew that she was there. I loved the evidence of her past presence, and the promise of her return, the way she changed the smell of that gloomy little flat. I had been unhappy there, but that was in the past. It felt like being cured of some debilitating disease and I was jubilant. ‘Domestic bliss’-the pairing of those words made perfect sense to me. I don’t mean to strike an inappropriate note, but few things have ever made me happier in my life than the sight of Connie’s underwear drying on my radiator.”
Douglas not only looks back to reflect on his life with Connie but another element that is so powerful in this novel is his relationship (or lack thereof) with his son Albie. Albie always favored Connie and the two of them were a joint force to be reckoned with. He is desperate to build some sort of relationship with his son and as he tries to do this on the streets of Europe he also reveals his less than stellar past performance as a father.
I could go on and on quoting scenes from the book but I would be here all day. I can see why it made the long list for the Man Booker Prize 2014. It’s one of my favorites this year. And somehow I knew it would before I opened to that first page. Nicholls’ writing resonates with me like many of my favorite authors: Meg Wolitzer and Jojo Moyes to name a few. I don’t always have to like the characters when I am reading but his keen ability to create flawed, real people with such revealing humility is why I keep going back for more. There is no dystopian world, no shocking twist, no questions left unanswered but just (as one reader expressed) flawless execution that has stayed with me for days.
Here is a nice little video about the book from David Nicholls:
Thank you to Trish at TLC Book tours for letting me in on this tour and supplying me with an ARC. I was not compensated for this review and some quotes may be changed in the final release.