Book review – Us by David Nicholls

I feel like I’ve grown up with David Nicholls.

Starter for Ten, The Understudy and the global phenomenon One Day. All written in a similar style, full of wit, poignancy and offbeat characters, I wonder how autobiographical each one is….

Us is a bitter-sweet dissection of the relationship between Douglas – a structured scientist and traditional disciplinarian – and Connie, his wayward, beautiful and artistic wife.

After 20 years of marriage Connie announces that she’s probably leaving Douglas. But they agree to go ahead with their Grand Tour of Europe, probably the last family holiday with Albie, their stroppy and lost 17 year-old son.

The holiday doesn’t quite go to plan and Douglas ends up confronting some of his demons in a series of helter-skelter misadventures across Europe, few of which were on his written itinerary.

As always, the writer’s characterisation is brilliant. Douglas is maddeningly unable to cut Albie much slack, trying to impose a scientist’s logical thinking onto a confused teenager in search of anything but structure, at the same time as Albie wrestles with his own challenges

The Grand Tour mishaps are neatly interwoven with the history of Douglas and Connie’s relationship, and other incidents that give some understanding of the present father and son dynamic. If there is any dynamism in something that’s so broken?

I embraced Us in much the same way I described bookish immersion here.  And I’m already looking forward to the movie version of Us, anticipating who might play the main characters in this deftly woven story.

And please don’t make us wait too long for the next instalment of your literary life, Mr Nicholls……

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