Larry H's Reviews > Us

Us by David Nicholls
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it was ok

Douglas Petersen is a mild-mannered biochemist in his early 50s. He craves order and although he thinks he has a good sense of humor and the ability to enjoy himself, he isn't one to loosen his inhibitions frequently, or give up plans for spontaneity. He and his wife, Connie, have a son, Albie, who is planning to go to college once the summer ends. And then one night, Douglas' life is upended when Connie awakens him.

"I said I think our marriage has run its course. Douglas, I think I want to leave you."

Connie's declaration throws Douglas completely for a loop. But she isn't ready to make a definitive decision on their marriage just yet. They had planned to take Albie on a European tour over the summer (which they nicknamed "The Grand Tour") in an effort to show him some of the world's greatest art, architecture, and history. Douglas has the entire trip planned down to the minute. Connie still wants to go on the trip, and not reveal their discussions to Albie, and when they return from their travels, she'll make a decision.

"To contemplate a life without her; I found it inconceivable. Literally so. I was not able to conceive of it. And so I decided that it could not be allowed to happen."

Douglas is determined to save his marriage, and approaches their trip with utter gusto. But Douglas' need to keep everyone on schedule, his obsessive reading travel and art history books and regurgitating the information at will, and his desire for order exacerbates many of the couple's problems, not to mention furthers the tension between him and Albie, whom Douglas believes has always favored his mother. And although they all try (Connie and Douglas more than Albie) to keep on trying, it isn't long before everything goes horribly awry.

Us is the story of a man always in control who finds a situation he cannot control—and one he cares about more than everything. He wants to prove to Connie that she shouldn't give up on their relationship, and he is determined to try to salvage his relationship with his son. But can a person really change their nature? Can the issues that have arisen throughout a relationship suddenly disappear?

The book switches between past and present, with Douglas chronicling The Grand Tour and the events they encounter, as well as reminiscing about their relationship from the start, when the two wholly different people met and charmed each other into eventually building a life together. Douglas certainly sees the tensions and issues that have occurred through the years, but for a man who is so intelligent, he isn't particularly observant or attuned to his emotions or others'.

David Nicholls' One Day was one of the best books I read in 2010, and the movie was one of my favorites as well. Needless to say, I was eagerly anticipating this book, but sadly, I found myself really disappointed. I thought the book went on for far too long and just kept repeating the same themes—Douglas cannot be spontaneous, Connie is frustrated by this, Douglas gets upset with Albie, etc. Even certain incidents in the plot seemed straight out of central casting—saying the wrong things when attempting to speak a foreign language, getting stoned in Amsterdam and running into prostitutes, etc.

But the biggest problem I had with Us was that the book was narrated by Douglas, and I didn't really like his character very much. Sure, he's self-deprecating, and knows what his shortcomings are, but I didn't find him particularly sympathetic—in fact, I didn't love any of the characters. I'm sad that I didn't enjoy it, but other reviews I've seen on Amazon really had, so maybe suddenly all of my sappiness disappeared...
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Reading Progress

August 12, 2014 – Shelved
August 12, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
October 30, 2014 – Started Reading
November 1, 2014 –
50.0% "Really not enjoying this so far...this book seems totally rote to this point. Characters are stereotypical, situations familiar...hoping it redeems itself. But since I loved "One Day" I'll soldier on."
November 2, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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message 1: by Elyse (new) - added it

Elyse  Walters "repeating themes" -- is a 'book-topic' which has been on my mind since attending the Austin Book Festival last week.

A book publisher told me --"Storytelling is **IN** right now".....(whatever that means?/!) --Books go in 'trends', like anything else.

A publisher was present with other 3 authors speaking to our group:
--I had read one of the books by one of the authors at the table. I enjoyed it --but felt it was too long --with repeated themes --and it was the authors first novel. .
I asked:
"Why was,
'The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing', allowed to be almost a 500 pages long by a first time author? I wanted to know how that worked -and who chooses? The author didn't answer me --The Publisher did. She talked about "BOOK TRENDS" -- "Storytelling is in right now".
hm??
Is repeating themes a trend in storytelling? I'm confused.

How long is the book 'US'? More than 350 pages? Just curious?

note: at the festival --it was a huge room with over 100 people --so I didn't feel I understood the answer I got. (not really).


Larry H It's over 400 pages. And it's written in tiny chapters, some are let me reflect on the way our relationship unfolded, some are current time. I'm all for storytelling, and if a book catches my interest I don't mind if it runs long and doesn't feel this way. This book seemed as if it took FOREVER to get to an unsatisfying conclusion. So disappointed.


message 3: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Masterson Great review Larry. I was shocked to see the 2 star review from you. I think I might skip "Us" now.


Larry H Jennifer, thanks. I was shocked to give it. I think if you're interested, you still might want to give it a try...it has nearly a five-star rating on Amazon and the most vocal people think it was absolutely fantastic. Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-. I am an utter sap, so for a novel like this not to work for me, is shocking.


message 5: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Masterson Yeah I was completely shocked. I hate when a book is like that. It's like a waste of time. I don't trust EW's reviews.


message 6: by Elyse (new) - added it

Elyse  Walters Thanks Larry, I value your review/reviews! I've more books to read anyway, than all the cups of plain dark coffee Starbucks sells in a day, I'm betting. lol. So, no hurry... Unless somebody puts it free in my hands or I find it at my dollar store later. (Very possible). Hugs, and thanks!


Larry H Thanks, Elyse! And Jennifer, I don't always trust EW's reviews either. It also seems that Goodreads people are more willing to be honest and actually articulate in their reviews than Amazon folks are, and I primarily think that's because you can't vote down people's reviews here.

But it's interesting because it seems like lately the "best books of the year" are ones I was fairly tepid on.


message 8: by Elyse (new) - added it

Elyse  Walters I haven't voted yet on Goodreads --(It should be fun)!


B the BookAddict Good review. Thanks, Larry, if you didn't like it, I know I won't!


Larry H Thanks, Bette! I am still amazed that being one who is so taken in by books that make you feel, that this one didn't win me over. Oh well...


message 11: by Darlene (new)

Darlene I loved your review, Larry! I have been waiting for this book to come out as I really liked his book, "One Day" (although I have to admit that I wasn't a fan of how it ended!:) Now, I'm not feeling as enthusiastic about it! I'm curious... did you read "The Rosie Project"? Your description of Douglas sounded as if he was a bit like the Don Tillman character in "The Rosie Project". Thanks for the great review.. it was very helpful!! :)


Larry H Darlene, I loved "The Rosie Project." Douglas in "Us" is similar to Don's character in "Rosie" but Don is so much more appealing. I felt as if Douglas had a bit of a mean streak, intentional or otherwise.


Elaine Agree completely. There are one or two chapters towards the end that actually moved me, but overall Douglas was too unlikeable and too prone to repeating the same mistakes over too many pages. I liked the easy recognition of the travel stuff but those were cheap thrills - as you say the descriptions of the many places that Douglas goes don't really get past the surface.


Larry H Thanks, Elaine! I agree, I was moved a time or two, but I just thought Nicholls made all of the characters so unappealing for so long, it just wasn't enjoyable spending time with them.


Donna McCaul Thibodeau Larry, I felt a lot better after reading your review. I also gave "Us" two stars. I found all the characters unlikable and the book seemed like it would NEVER end.


Larry H Oh, good, Donna! I know others absolutely loved this but I just couldn't warm to it, and as I've said, given how much I loved "One Day," I'm so disappointed.


Donna McCaul Thibodeau I'm the same, I LOVED "One Day" and couldn't wait to get my hands on this one and then I was like, "...wait, what? Is this the same author?" and it seemed that everyone and their brother thought it was brilliant. And it took me five days to slog my way through it. What a shame.


Larry H Same here. The book just CRAWLED.


Janet Couldn't agree more with you and Donna. I didn't particularly like any of the characters or the story. I, too, thought it'd never end. I'd like to give the author another try, but couldn't give this more than two stars.


Larry H Janet, I loved Nicholls' "One Day" and absolutely devoured it, so for me, it was this book that wasn't good and not the author.


Janet That seems to be a popular opinion. I'm going to try that one. Thanks!


Aline I'm nearly finished with the book but I've found myself struggling with it throughout for exactly the same reasons.It is too long, too repetitive,frustrating and depressing. Basically the narrator keeps whining for nearly 400 pages and I can't muster any pity for him nor do I like either of the other two main characters. I really look forward to finishing it soon. I absolutely loved One Day and also liked his other books but this one is really not for me.


message 23: by Archor (new) - added it

Archor So true! I spent like three days to read the whole book and this one totally disappointed me. I had high expectations on this book because of his previous novel One Day which is intriguing but this one just too boring I nearly gave up in the middle of my reading journey. I think he doesn't need to use different scenario or accidents to prove the same point; this would only make the book as did the characters annoying. Also, I dunno it's because of my young age or what, I don't quite get what the theme or message the author wants to lay out. I was like why that Connie continuesly implied or said it out loud that she liked his husband but at the end they divorced, isn't that love is about tolerating each other shortcomings? Maybe that's a question about love and marriage and I am way to young and have no experience of this so that's why I don't get it lol


Ulrika Spot on! Also really enjoyed One Day but this was a huge disappointment!!


message 25: by Natasha (new) - added it

Natasha I am a huge fan of David Nicholls, have read every single one of his books. I agree with the consensus that One Day is better. I think it's because, though the end is tragic, the two characters finally get together and we have been rooting for them from the start of the novel. The thing about "Us" is that it's not that kind of novel. It shows us that sometimes marriage doesn't last forever but that certainly doesn't diminish the years that they spent together. The book is a documentation of that.


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