Us, by David Nicholls.
Fans of David Nicholls’ previous books will know he well deserves the recognition of being one of Britain’s best writers, penning many international best sellers, including some that have been turned into blockbuster hits on the big screen. Upon hearing of Nicholls’ latest release, I had no doubt it would be another phenomenal hit, and it’s safe to say I certainly wasn’t proven wrong.
Us tells the story of Douglas Peterson, a man who realises his marriage of 21 years to his wife Connie is about to end. Their son Albie is heading to university, and Connie sees this as a chance to reinvent her life and leave her stale marriage. Douglas decides to make it his mission to turn what would be their last summer together in to one that they’ll never forget, with the hopeful intention of winning back the love of his life. However, during their grand tour of Europe, Douglas learns a lot about his relationship and why his marriage went downhill in the first place, in addition to learning how to slowly repair the bond he lost with his son.
The story is a true to life tale of a family trying to rebuild their connection, leading to a comedic story intertwined with intimate and heart-breaking moments. The book cleverly explores many relatable themes, from the parent-child relationship scenario, to the breakdown of marriage. Even the aspects of being a young adult and trying to become independent are dealt with, and this is something that any reader can relate to.
Despite the story switching between past and present, it’s easy to stay on track. This narrative technique can lead readers’ to become confused or disinterested, but the wisely chosen dialogue creates a funny and entertaining side to Douglas and the other characters’ personalities.
One of the most appealing characters in the novel is Albie; despite not being the main focus, he is still of great importance. The way in which his typical student lifestyle, so far from his Dad’s own experience of teenage life, plays on their relationship is something many students will relate to. Connie’s admiration for her son, and how he is unable to do wrong in her eyes, also contributes to the strained family unit.
David Nicholls’ certainly deserves serious credit for yet another stand out novel. Whilst reading Us, Nicholls will have you laughing, sobbing and questioning your relationship with your own parents from one chapter to the next. This is a heartfelt insight into the modern family lifestyle, and another significant achievement for Nicholls.