24 June 2015

Us


The blurb: Douglas and Connie: scientist and artist, and for more than twenty years, husband and wife until suddenly, their marriage seems over. But Douglas is going to win back the love of his wife and the respect of Albie, their teenage son, by organising the holiday of a lifetime. He has booked the hotels, bought the train tickets, planned and printed the itinerary for a 'grand tour' of the great art galleries of Europe. What could possibly go wrong?

Rating: 4/5 stars

This book was a welcome change of pace from some other things I've been reading lately! Similar to One Day, it's a simple story about ordinary people. I think David Nicholls always manages to perfectly capture and describe human behaviour, thoughts and emotions and I really enjoyed reading Douglas and Connie's story.

The structure of the book makes it really easy to read and dip in and out of - split into sections, one for each country visited during the 'Grand Tour' of Europe, and then written in a series of paragraphs each with its own heading rather than chapters. I really liked reading about the different settings and following the family on their trip around Europe. The narrative moves back and forth between past and present meaning the reader is able to get a full picture of Douglas' relationship with Connie and their lives together, including the birth of their son Albie. The story is as much about the way in which relationships and families can change over time as much as Douglas' present day quest to win back the affections of his wife and son, and I think David Nicholls writes both so well.

Douglas himself is a character who can infuriate you and inspire sympathy at the same time and makes a wonderful protagonist. He reminded me a little of Don Tillman from The Rosie Project - as a scientist, he has no appreciation for Albie's preference for creative pursuits over the academic, and though you can see a lot of his actions come from a desire to share his interest in science with his son and build a relationship with him that way, he does sometimes make you roll your eyes as a reader, but I was really rooting for him too. The supporting characters of Connie, Albie and a few others met along the way are all equally great and I could picture them all really well.

Equal parts funny, moving and sad, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a slightly different take on a love story. It would make a great beach read!
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