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Us by David Nicholls
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really liked it
bookshelves: finished-in-2014, contemporary

Episodic. In fact, to the point where author David Nicholls numbers the episodes for readers (for you number wonks, it comes to 180). This domestic month-in-the-life is about a British family of three -- scientist hubby Douglas Petersen, his Bohemian wife Connie, and their typically-moody teen son, Albie. Connie has announced she's thinking about divorce, and Doug puts all his hopes in the Petersen family's upcoming "Grand Tour of Europe." Can you see disaster coming? Of course you can! Sooner rather than later, too.

Let's start with the quibbles. The book reads like it was written with the movies in mind. Maybe that's not a negative in many readers' minds, but it always throws me a bit if I'm distracted from the words, the craftsmanship, and the moment by niggling notions like, "Oh, I could see THAT scene on the big screen" or, "I'll bet they'll cast so and so as Connie. She'd be perfect!" and so on.

You see, many of the "episodes" are set pieces. And the writing can be, at times, self-consciously clever. Put it together and you get a novel crying for a director. They won't need a screenwriter because Nicholls already has experience -- he wrote the screenplay to his last book, ONE DAY. In 2010, it became a Jim Sturgess/Anne Hathaway vehicle (as they say).

To be fair, though, there's a lot to like here. By making Douglas such a square, such a killjoy, and such an annoyed dad, Nicholls is able to mine quite a few funny situations, especially with the more worldly Connie as a foil. Visiting the big cities of Europe (chiefly for the museums) gives it all an "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" feel, too. Rushing for trains. Discovering disastrous lodgings. Arguing over petty things because... well, because everyone's hot and bothered and too close for comfort.

As the plot thickens and the marriage teeters, Nicholls develops alternate narrative lines by mixing flashbacks detailing Connie and Doug's early relationship with the present-day melodrama. And while I found myself a tad impatient with the threads about the past, in the end they added some depth to the drama playing out in the present.

Can it get cute at times, too clever for its own good, even over-the-top in a few scenes? Well, yeah. But it's enjoyable. And, dare I admit, heartwarming in its way. Meaning? I just KNOW that Hollywood audiences will love it and that the right actors will milk it for all its worth when the cows come home and the box office opens. Four hundred pages, but a quick read and a fun read. If you like that sort of breezy, family tragicomedy thing, it appears you've found your book.
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Reading Progress

September 18, 2014 – Started Reading
September 18, 2014 – Shelved
September 20, 2014 –
page 82
September 21, 2014 –
page 147
September 24, 2014 –
page 203
September 25, 2014 –
page 272
September 25, 2014 – Shelved as: finished-in-2014
September 25, 2014 – Shelved as: contemporary
September 25, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Cecily (last edited Sep 29, 2014 05:25AM) (new)

Cecily "They won't need a screenwriter because Nicholls already has experience -- he wrote the screenplay to his last book, ONE DAY."

He also wrote the screenplay for his first novel, Starter for Ten (though I suspect that was too UK-oriented for worldwide success).

Anyway, thanks for a useful review of this; it's on my radar but, to mix a metaphor, I think I'll sit on the fence for a while.

message 2: by Elyse (new) - added it

Elyse  Walters I've debated on this book. Well, truth is... I've too many books I'm committed to for awhile anyway-- but I found it amazing that the author who wrote 'One Day'... With page turning charm... was the same man who trashed the film. The movie was a mess.

Yet... His BOOK was good!

Which book did you like better?

message 3: by Ken (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ken Alas, I have not read One Day so I cannot say. Sorry.

message 4: by Elyse (new) - added it

Elyse  Walters Aw, ok!

message 5: by Elyse (new) - added it

Elyse  Walters Aw, ok!

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