Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Us: A novel by David Nicholls

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

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 caf├ęs 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?

my thoughts:

As a huge fan of One Day by David Nicholls, I was eager to read his next book, Us.  I was especially pleased to learn that it had been longlisted for the Man Book Prize 2014, because I knew that meant it was going to be a great read.  Suffice it to say, the Man Booker committee was right to choose Us.  A contemporary novel that explores a twenty-five year old marriage via a family vacation through Europe is certainly not what I expected - its much more. 

Douglas tells us the tale of how he met, married, and reared a child with Connie through flashbacks, as the couple and their seventeen year old son travel through Europe.  You see, Connie decided that they should use the summer before their son, Albie, heads off to university as a way to bond and spend some quality time together.  Of course, Douglas didn't count on Connie informing him that she wanted out of their marriage - and on the eve of departure no less!  Ack!  Douglas is upset, hurt, confused, and doesn't know what to do about Connie's confession.  So, they head off to Paris in the hopes of enjoying their time together (and Douglas hopes that this trip will change Connie's mind).  However, not all family vacations are going to turn out how you envisioned.  In the Petersens case, there are complaints on the first day - too much luggage, not enough alone time, scheduled tour stops, etc.  Seems like no one is too happy to be embarking on a trip that will have the trio spending all their time together - well, except for Douglas who is hoping to rekindle his marriage with Connie and create some father-son memories with Albie. 

This family is unhappy - plain and simple.  Douglas had no idea that his wife was thinking about leaving him - he didn't even realize that their marriage was no longer working.  As for Albie, well, they never really had a strong relationship, as Albie was more of a mama's boy and tended to connect with his mother over their shared interest of art and the bohemian lifestyle she once lived.  Feeling like a bit of an outsider, Douglas' perspective on his relationships are a bit skewed from that vantage point.  He doesn't seem to understand where this dissension is truly coming from - he just thinks that he's tried so hard to love them that he's done enough.  Learning about their marriage and their son, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Douglas at times.  I found Connie to be rather selfish and did think that she preferred to be with her art friends more than Douglas - he was right on that count.  As for Albie, I can't really seem to pick up on when exactly he fell out of love with his dad - what happened to cause this rift?  Of course, I haven't finished the book just yet, so perhaps Nicholls reveals the moment when all the walls came tumbling down in Casa Petersen.  I'm at the point in the story where the trip has unraveled and people have separated and Douglas is now on a mission of redemption (of sorts).  I can't wait to find out what happens in Venice.  I have to admit I'm loving reading about all of the cities they visit in Europe - its a lovely way to travel.

Nicholls has written a wonderful story about a family in disarray.  He's created such flawed and realistic characters, that you can easily relate to.  He's written about their relationships with such authenticity that you can feel the tension in the air when Douglas doesn't side with his son during a fight at the hotel.  And the use of flashbacks to learn about the history of these relationships is fascinating, especially as we get to understand just how delicate these relationships already were before the Grand Tour of Europe.  I love how Nicholls makes you feel such empathy for Douglas and has you questioning Connie's devotion to their marriage.  As for Albie, he's a character unto himself that I just find to be irritating and rather bratty.  I am really enjoying reading this book and can't help but find myself on Douglas' side thus far.  Of course, I still have quite a number of pages to go, so who knows where I'll find myself siding with by the novel's end.  Either way, I am truly enjoying immersing myself in Nisholls' world.  This man really knows how to capture the fragility of family and love so well - its apparent how much thought he's put into these characters and their problems.  I love his writing!

Anyhow, I'm off to finish Us.  The weather is dark and rainy, so its perfect for reading.  All I need is a cuppa and I'm set.  Hope you are enjoying your current read.  And, if you are on the lookout for your next book, check out Us by David Nicholls - its perfect for fans of Nicholls and fans of fiction.  Here's the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Us
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!


Carole said...

thanks, Nadia - this is now on my tbr. Cheers from carole's chatter

Ti said...

I didn't know it was long listed! I am one of the few who did not lone One. That's what it was called, right? I might be wrong. I gave up on it less than 50 pages in. Unheard of for me.

Nadia said...

Carole, thanks! You will definitely enjoy this book :)

Ti, yeah it was. I can definitely understand why - Nicholls is an awesome storyteller. One Day was the name of the book and I really enjoyed it, except for the ending. I was disappointed by it and remember posting about it - LOL!

Bellezza said...

Well, crap! Now I'm mad I didn't pick it up from the library when my hold came up...I was so buried for school, and thought it might not be good since it was cut from the short list...I nominate you to be on the Booker judges committee next year. xo

Nadia said...

Bellezza, thanks dear friend ;) And definitely check out the book when you get a chance - I think you will really enjoy it :)

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

It's so sad to me when a marriage dwindles like this one does. I'm very interested in seeing how things turn out for them!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.