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Us by David Nicholls
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it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, booker-sl-ll, uk, romance, humor, fiction

Falling in love is a beautiful thing, more so when the love comes surreptitiously at your door which had opened many a times in past to find only empty autumns of loneliness and futile rains of solitude. Into such a heart, when love steps in, the heart does not remain the same, ever. Finding your reflection in another being becomes a hypnotic revelation, empowering you at once, to ironically, surrender your many identities to live in the nurturing shadow of your beloved. You accept sans hesitation, you relinquish without regret, you pursue without fatigue and you transform without ado. And when this spring continues to brighten your heart for seasons together, you lose track of the weather outside. You care no longer to check the forecast of the world beyond yourself, which still bears the unpredictability of floating emotional clouds. Being in love feels almost like a trance that you hope would never run out of steam.

But what if it does?

A reticent 30-year old research scientist, Douglas Petersen, meets a vivacious 28-year old artist, Connie Moore. Buoyed and drained by different drugs in life, they find a common drug that leaves them high for the next 24 years: love.

'...if only because the truly happy days tend not to involve so much organization, are rarely so public. The happy ones sneak up, unexpected."


During this long springy hangover in London, they gain and lose much. Besides togetherness and loyalty, they gain a handsome, albeit recalcitrant son, Albie. He abates the loss of their beautiful daughter, Jane, to some extent. But when it is time for the 17-year old Albie to attend university, the family decides to undertake a Grand Europe Tour as a farewell gift to Albie. Corrosively for Douglas, it also doubles up as his final bid to win Connie back who, days before the commencement of the tour, shares her long-tended contemplation of pursuing a separate, individual life after Albie’s departure.

'There's a saying, cited in popular song, that if you love someone you must set them free. Well, that's just nonsense. If you love someone, you bind them to you with heavy metal chains.'


And so begins a journey of epic proportions whose geographical vastness could only be countered by the stretch of emotional emptiness that Douglas had suddenly begun feeling like a lump in the rib. In the artistic corridors of Paris, on the cycling escapades of Munich, amidst the boisterous camaraderie of Amsterdam, over the splendorous rides of Venice and in the infectious effervescence of Madrid, he attempts to envelop his son in the friendship blanket by one hand while not losing grip on the love shield hoisted over his wife by the other. But are the attempts too little, too late?

'The heat and humidity were Amazonian and rubbing the skin on my perspiring forehead produced a grey scurf like the debris from a pencil eraser, the accumulated grime of seven nations.'


Is it possible to truly bask in an air of nostalgia if it does not leave the reassuring perfume of a loving present behind? How praiseworthy is a love that whisks away all our dreams because they find fulfillment in its refuge? Is wagering dreams for peace an act of cowardice? Should we pat our back if we receive eternal friendship in lieu of transient love? Who scores in the battle of unexpressed care and expressed scorn? Does communication, simply by its virtue of flowing, negate all its ill-effects? Nicholls swirls bubbles of profound thoughts towards us, which laced with witty humor, act as a mirror of life that laughs at us during our most sombre times; almost snatching control from our lives, like a perennial elder, whose children have suddenly developed the ephemeral hallucination of being their own bosses.

But again, like an elder, it senses our flights and falls and without fail, opens another window of our heart. What comes in, of course, is a criss-cross of reflected and refracted rays which, although radiantly complicated, alleviate the darkness and give us a season, yet again, to see and live in a new light.
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Reading Progress

September 24, 2014 – Shelved
April 30, 2015 – Started Reading
April 30, 2015 –
page 67
16.75% "'Newton did see the apple fall, but he'd been thinking about gravity much before that. The same with Darwin, he didn't wake up one day and think: natural selection! Most scientific progress is a slog rather than these great bolts of lightening. Like my old tutor used to say, "To assume makes an ass of u and me!"'"
May 2, 2015 –
page 130
32.5% ""'But you haven’t got a novel to read?’ ‘I’ve just never really been that bothered about fiction,’ I said. She shook her head. ‘I’ve always wondered who those freaks are who don’t read novels. And it’s you! Freak.’ She smiled through all this, but I still sensed an incremental slip, a loosening of my grip on her affections, as if I’d casually confessed to some racial bigotry.""
May 3, 2015 –
page 240
60.0% "'Yet there seemed to be no easy correlation between the awful grief I felt at her death and our closeness – or lack of it – in life, and it occurred to me that perhaps grief is as much regret for what we have never had as sorrow for what we have lost.'"
May 4, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)

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Jeffrey Keeten Nicholls does such a great job wrapping each bitter pill in a cocoon of humor.

I believe love has to evolve or it withers. Youthful attraction has to become something deeper as couples stay together for decade after decade. If not, eventually their connections to one another become brittle and easily shattered. It becomes easier to just start over with someone new. It is impossible not to analyze ones own relationships after reading this book. I like that you ask a lot of good questions. Excellent review!


message 2: by Dolors (new)

Dolors What a wise and somehow imposing review Seemita, because as Jeffrey so cunningly pointed out, it's impossible not to turn the mirror of Nicholl's treatise on the evolution of love and ask ourselves some discomfiting questions. I have met Nicholls previously in By David Nicholls: One Day and Starter for Ten and I recognize his crisp tone, which doesn't sacrifice depth, through the prism of your first rate prose. I like to think that love is like energy, never static, always changing shape but never completely destroyed... just like talent! And so I can't help but wonder, without meaning to pry, where did you spread the gospel of your words before writing reviews on GR, Seemita? :)


message 3: by Jibran (new)

Jibran 'There's a saying, cited in popular song, that if you love someone you must set them free. Well, that's just nonsense. If you love someone, you bind them to you with heavy metal chains.'

This quote and your pointed questions at the end betray our constant struggle in finding satisfying answers to the enigma that is love and its concomitant worries. We find the answers, incomplete and truncated, and must live with them. Setting your beloved free or binding them to heavy chains - it would be great if we could ascertain which works....but neither does, yet either may.
Splendid review as always.


message 4: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Funny how a book can be titled, "Us," and lets the reader see exactly that through the characters and story. You gave us stunning introspection interspersed with meaningful questions, Seemita. Lovely review!


message 5: by Deea (last edited May 05, 2015 02:43PM) (new) - added it

Deea Only a person who has truly loved can write such deep thoughts on love. Love gets you entranced indeed, it makes you feel that there is a profusion of positivity everywhere around you (as what is reality if not the reflection of our inner happenings?) and I could go on and on about the exaltation it brings... As you well pinted out, if you love someone, is it possible to set that person free easily other than in theory? "If you love someone, you bind them to you with heavy metal chains." I loved your review Seemita. The way you express your opinions about the books you read is always wonderful, but this reviw in particular is one of your masterpieces.


message 6: by Himanshu (new) - added it

Himanshu I wonder what would you do if you find answers to all those questions. I think they vary with each individual experience and circumstances always butts in to take control. What an astounding opening you gave to this marvelous review, Seemita. I think I'm going to hold off reading this for some time but shall surely read it nonetheless.


Seemita Jeffrey wrote: "Nicholls does such a great job wrapping each bitter pill in a cocoon of humor.

I believe love has to evolve or it withers. Youthful attraction has to become something deeper as couples stay toget..."


You are spot-on: Nicholls has this endearing quality of wrapping the bitterness and disdains in cocoons of humor. He does that effortlessly, which sometimes, I view, as a metaphor for life - we mostly smile at our failures since there are no options but to shove them away and move on.

Rediscovering love with the same person, over and over again, is an onerous task and that's why couples who "stay" in love draw more awe and respect than those who "fall" in love. Thanks for your thoughts, Jeffrey; they resonate with me loud and strong.


Seemita Dolors wrote: "..because as Jeffrey so cunningly pointed out, it's impossible not to turn the mirror of Nicholl's treatise on the evolution of love and ask ourselves some discomfiting questions."

Absolutely! He stealthily constructs the story amid such routine, regular dilemmas of life that we never realize as to when we have swapped placed with the fictional characters and Nicholls is now talking feverishly about us too! And since he talks about love, it makes just more sense to read him as I can never put in words that what lies between those four letters. Saying its an energy is a good way of describing it, Dolors - your thoughts always so different and fresh!

Dolors wrote: "And so I can't help but wonder, without meaning to pry, where did you spread the gospel of your words before writing reviews on GR, Seemita? :)"

Haha... I was letting them run within the walls of heart since I wasn't sure they were worthy stepping outside :)


Seemita Jibran wrote: "We find the answers, incomplete and truncated, and must live with them. Setting your beloved free or binding them to heavy chains - it would be great if we could ascertain which works....but neither does, yet either may."

Indeed. We have to live with incomplete and truncated answers but sometimes, even that is enough. The emotion is so vast and consuming that if we can truly appreciate even a fraction of its ramification, we might have achieved a milestone in life. Ha! Insane stuff, a whirlwind that never remains quiet.

Thanks for reading and leaving your perceptive comment, Jibran.


Seemita Cheryl wrote: "Funny how a book can be titled, "Us," and lets the reader see exactly that through the characters and story. You gave us stunning introspection interspersed with meaningful questions, Seemita. Love..."

Bingo! It is, very well, a 400-layered mirror that compels us to peer in and check our own ties for their strength and loose ends at various bends in life.

I was left with a thousand questions and I promptly launched some into the review. Thanks for the patient reading and generous appreciating, Cheryl :)


message 11: by Seemita (last edited May 06, 2015 01:20AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Seemita Deea wrote: "Only a person who has truly loved can write such deep thoughts on love. Love gets you entranced indeed, it makes you feel that there is a profusion of positivity everywhere around you (as what is ..."

I do value this emotion way too strongly, Deea. I believe that a relationship, with love's true color at its heart, can successfully wage wars of time and emerge victorious, if only occasionally wounded. Those wounds heal gradually and become signs of our courage and longevity.

Whether I think we can bind the person we love? Yes, only through love though; no other weapon works. Sometimes, love too, loses its way in the storms of misunderstandings.

Like you, I too, can go on and on about this and never know where I am heading! So, I will shut up here.

For being such a stupendous support with your presence and thoughts, I am grateful Deea! :)


Seemita Himanshu wrote: "I wonder what would you do if you find answers to all those questions. I think they vary with each individual experience and circumstances always butts in to take control. What an astounding openin..."

Hmmm.. I think, no, I'm sure, that the answers to these questions will set another world of questions in motion! There is no end and in a way, it keeps us on our toes! :)

I am glad you added this novel to your TBR, Himanshu. I am sure you can showcase many intriguing reflections from this lovely work. For being here with your wonderful words, thank you.


message 13: by Kalliope (last edited May 06, 2015 01:31AM) (new)

Kalliope I love to love your review, Seemita... That is another kind of love.

You have also made me look at Nicholls's biography and convinced me that there are elements there that make me want to read his works. I was only aware of By David Nicholls: One Day.... and since I understand the effervescence of Madrid...


message 14: by Garima (last edited May 06, 2015 02:12AM) (new)

Garima I agree with Kall. Truly beautiful review and I found your writing a lot more lovely and insightful in comparison to the quotes you included from the book so I definitely need to check how Nicholls's writing would work for me.


message 15: by Rakhi (new)

Rakhi Dalal Lovely review,Seemita :)

And the questions you ask at the end...so appropriate...what can ever be said of the way the mind/thoughts work, of the way people turn out even after such years of togetherness...

Thanks for provoking thoughts on a lazy afternoon.


Seemita Kalliope wrote: "I love to love your review, Seemita... That is another kind of love.

You have also made me look at Nicholls's biography and convinced me that there are elements there that make me want to read his..."


Ah you are a sweetheart, Kall! Thanks for all the love :) I am glad you looked up Nicholls and ticked his works for further exploration. 'One Day' remains one of my favorite romance novels and its humorous, sensitive and relevant core resonates with my perceptions well. I think you might just like "Us".


message 17: by Seemita (last edited May 06, 2015 01:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Seemita Garima wrote: "I agree with Kall. Truly beautiful review and I found your writing a lot more lovely and insightful in comparison to the quotes you included from the book so I definitely need to check how Nicholls..."

Thank you for the kind words, Garima. When I finished writing this review, I became aware that I have not done justice to Nicholls' writing skills since the quotes I included weren't reflective of his natural humor and eased flair. But I urge you not to decide against his style, falling on my petite inclusions, and give his works a try.


Seemita Rakhi wrote: "Lovely review,Seemita :)

And the questions you ask at the end...so appropriate...what can ever be said of the way the mind/thoughts work, of the way people turn out even after such years of togeth..."


Its crazy, isn't it? Years of knowing comes undone in a matter of few moments!

Thank you for reading and leaving your comment, Rakhi! And hope the afternoon fielded well your ponderings after all :)


Lynne King Seemita,

Your view is lovely! Purely by reading that I would have purchased the book!

I somehow found that I only had one star on mine (how could that happen?) and so I rectified that immediately!


Seemita Lynne wrote: "Seemita,

Your view is lovely! Purely by reading that I would have purchased the book!

I somehow found that I only had one star on mine (how could that happen?) and so I rectified that immediately!"


Oh its very sweet of you to say that, Lynne! Thanks a bunch :) I did read your opening line, correcting the rating but all that I retained were the five stars and your fabulous review!


message 21: by Matthias (new)

Matthias Beautiful, Seemita, truly beautiful! I strongly suspect your review being better than the book itself.


Seemita Matthias wrote: "Beautiful, Seemita, truly beautiful! I strongly suspect your review being better than the book itself."

Oh thanks for that warm shout, Matthias! It lifts my spirits at the end of a long, tired day :) And this book? Ah! Love stories are peculiar, isn't it? One renounces it in a day and the other keeps it alive for a life-time. I hardly ever recommend a love-story for its plot. But if you ever read this one, read it for its sincere emotions at heart; those that do not leap from rhythmic arrangements but rather drown into serene wholeness.


message 23: by Seemita (last edited Dec 22, 2015 11:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Seemita Sabah wrote: "Stunning review, Seemita. As always you voice the questions so many of us hesitate to do, apart from in the quiet recesses of our minds. Even then we shy from the answers, lest they be to difficult..."

Thank you so much, Sabah! Yes, the questions; such rambling bunch of high-speed electrons banging the head without pause! And when they belong to the clan of love, we know we have been hard hit. I enjoyed this novel a lot. I have come to like Nicholls' style which is a generous bittersweet potion, offered at the right amount at right intervals. I hope you like it when you get to it. And may I also recommend 'One Day' which introduced me to Nicholls' work? You should enjoy that one too :)


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