Culture Street

Books

Us by David Nicholls

On October 13, 2014

By Sophia Whitifield
It has been five years since One Day was first published. Adapted for the screen in 2011, starring Anne Hathaway, it remains a much-loved book that placed David Nicholls firmly on the bestseller lists.

In his latest novel Nicholls has dusted off the shackles of youthful love and launched into a novel about middle age.

Douglas Peterson wakes up one morning to his wife telling him she wants to leave him. Their son, Albie, is about to leave home for college and she wants to be free. Douglas has meticulously planned a trip around Europe to celebrate their son’s graduation from school and now clings to this holiday with desperation. He hopes to win back his wife and rekindle a friendship with his teenage son. Douglas is convinced it will be the greatest trip of their lives.

Douglas is biochemist, pedantic and organised in his approach to life. He is both a lovable and irritating narrator. His wife Connie, a free spirit with a passion for art, seems to be the polar opposite of her husband. As the story of their Grand Tour progresses it is intercut with scenes from their life together, starting with Douglas’s unlikely courtship and subsequent marriage to Connie. Cracks appear early on in their marriage which they seem able to circumvent at the time but ultimately lead to Connie’s unhappiness.

Throughout their Grand Tour of Europe Douglas consults guidebooks and maps keeping Connie and Albie on a tight schedule of visits to various museums. Increasingly Douglas feels isolated from his family - Connie and Albie are a gang of two, always on the other side fuelled by their shared desire for spontaneity and passion for art.

Even at the start of the European Tour Douglas seems out of his depth. He is unable to express his emotions often behaving inappropriately which inevitably causes great distress to both Connie and Albie. However the three stagger on determined to make something of their Grand Tour.

Full of humour, this is a deeply moving story of love lost and found. Us is a masterful exploration of marriage in modern times. Buy the book here.

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