I read this book as part of the 2017 European Reading Challenge. Locations include Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and England.
I was first introduced to David Nicholls when I read One Day as part of the 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge. I enjoyed One Day and I liked Us even more. Us is narrated by Douglas Petersen, a middle-aged Englishman living a typical suburban life with his wife, Connie, and their seventeen-year-old son, Albie. An upcoming summer Grand Tour of Europe’s capitals has been planned as a last family vacation together before Albie goes off to university. Douglas is hoping this trip will provide one last chance to bond with Albie, with whom he has always felts somewhat of a stranger. Shortly before the trip, Connie tells Douglas that she’s thinking of leaving him, maybe “sometime in the fall,” and now Douglas has the added pressure of making Connie love him again during the Grand Tour.
I really liked Douglas. He reminded of people I know, and often, even myself. He means well, he has lofty ideals and goals of how he will communicate and treat those he loves, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, he becomes tongue-tied and reverts to banal statements. He wants his son to succeed, but can’t see success in Albie’s choices of busking and photography. The more he worries about his relationship with Albie and Albie’s future as an adult, the more he pushes Albie and the more alienated Albie becomes.
In addition to the present day story line of the Grand Tour, Nichols fills in Douglas and Connie’s backstory in alternating chapters, which allows us to see what two such different personality types initially saw in each other and what compromises they made throughout their married life. All the characters in this story are well-written and believable. The ending has a bit of a twist, not necessarily the happy ending one would have wanted when first starting to read Us, but satisfying, just the same. I will be looking for more David Nicholls books to read in the future.