PattyMacDotComma's Reviews > Us

Us by David Nicholls
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it was amazing
bookshelves: chcc-library, favourites-adult, fiction-adult, award-win-listed, older-folks


Touching, funny, sad and extremely frustrating. I kept thinking “NO, Douglas! Don’t SAY that! Just stop! ARGH$#!”

But that’s the point. Connie loves Douglas in spite of his obsessive nagging and worrying, which is nothing like that of her arty-party London friends. She’s pretty and popular, he’s nerdy and not. Miss Extrovert, meet Mr Asperger. But he’s smart and can make a battery out of a lemon!

He tells us compared to his A4 sheet of past relationships, she has a three-drawer filing cabinet.

Douglas tells their story in pieces, following their Grand Tour of Europe while reminiscing about the last 25 years. It’s a tale of love and friendship, and how they learned to accommodate each other as the bumped along through successes and over tragedies.

“Connie was, in those days, ferociously untidy. . .it was not unusual for her to reach into the pocket of a capacious coat for keys and to pull out a small wrench, a stolen ashtray, a desiccated apple-core or the stone of a mango. . .But, for the most part, I didn’t mind. Light travels differently in a room that contains another person; it reflects and refracts so that even when she was silent or sleeping I knew that she was there.”

Now Douglas is intent on ensuring 17-year-old son Albie is prepared for every worst-case scenario in an uncertain future world by bullying him over homework day in and day out and belittling his choice of photography over science (sure, that’ll help). Meanwhile, Albie would rather wing it, like Mum.

Connie tells Douglas she might want to split up soon, but first, she wants the three of them to do the Grand Tour. Douglas, grasping for this lifeline (maybe he can win her back!), goes overboard, printing up detailed itineraries with everything scheduled, pre-booked, and pre-paid, with stops at all the major art museums for his arty family.

On the trip, feeling his father is ashamed of him, Albie finally rebels and takes off with a wild accordion player for countries unknown.

Connie returns to England, while Douglas feels compelled to repair the damage and track his son down and fetch him home to his mother.

There’s a wealth of love and tenderness between them, and Connie has always seemed to understand the words that Douglas hasn’t been able to bring himself to say, although Douglas is now starting to doubt it.

“…my wife at fifty-two years old seems to me as attractive as the day I first met her. If I were to say this out loud, she would say, ‘Douglas, that’s just a line. No one prefers wrinkles, no one prefers grey.’ To which I’d reply, ‘But none of this is a surprise. I’ve been expecting to watch you grow older ever since we met. Why should it trouble me? It’s the face itself that I love, not that face at twenty-eight or thirty-four or forty-three. It’s THAT face.’

Perhaps she would have liked to hear this but I had never got around to saying it out loud. I had always presumed there would be time and now, sitting on the edge of the bed at four a.m., no longer listening out for burglars, it seemed that it might be too late.”

It’s interesting to watch Douglas and Albie grow up on their big tour, and I can see why this was longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. I’ll be thinking about these people for a long time.
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Reading Progress

November 25, 2015 – Shelved
December 15, 2015 – Started Reading
December 18, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)

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Phrynne Such a good book:)

message 2: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Patty , I never picked this one up because I wasn't crazy about One Day , but you make this sound worth trying.

Andrea Lovely review Patty

PattyMacDotComma Phrynne - I agree (obviously), and thanks, Andrea.

Angela, I haven't read One Day, so I can't compare. Horses for courses, as they say!

message 5: by Cecily (new)

Cecily I enjoyed Starter for Ten and One Day more than I expected, but I'm wary of this one (possibly a little too close to home). I expect I'll come to it one day. Your review reassures and intrigues me.

MaryG2E Really interesting to read your excellent review Patty. Personally, I had a strongly oppositional response to the book. I found the character of Connie to be repugnant to me, and I despaired of her casual cruelty to Douglas. I thought she and Albie became a Gang of Two against him, thus pushing him into more awkwardness and inappropriate thoughts and words. Unfortunately I know too many self-styled artistic people who think they are somehow superior to us mere mortals because they are 'creative', and so my heart went out to Douglas on many occasions. Like you, this book and its characters have stayed with me for a long time.

PattyMacDotComma MaryG2E wrote: "Really interesting to read your excellent review Patty. Personally, I had a strongly oppositional response to the book. I found the character of Connie to be repugnant to me, and I despaired of her..."

I know what you mean, Mary. I thought Albie affected the relationship differently. I reckon a lot of people can endure and even enjoy each other's foibles, but when those quirks (or obsessions) start negatively affecting their kids, patience and understanding wears pretty thin.

Poor Albie is more like mum but is a man like dad, so what's a guy to do? Cut and run?

The parents were certainly an odd couple, eh?

Peter Boyle A lovely review, Patty. That quote you included is just wonderful.

PattyMacDotComma Peter wrote: "A lovely review, Patty. That quote you included is just wonderful."

Thanks, Peter! It was a nice one, eh?

message 10: by Bianca (new)

Bianca Oh, this sounds great. I guess I'll have to add it.

message 11: by Sasha (new)

Sasha This sounds amazing

PattyMacDotComma Bianca wrote: "Oh, this sounds great. I guess I'll have to add it."

Of COURSE you will, Bianca, silly you! :)

PattyMacDotComma Alina Mironyuk wrote: "This sounds amazing"

Well, I certainly liked it, but check some other reviews, too, Alina.

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