Douglas is awakened in the middle of the night by his wife Connie who believes that their 20-year-long marriage has run its course. She wishes to separate once their son Albie moves away to University. Douglas, being practical, logical, and deeming his marriage a success, is utterly thrown by the very sudden declaration. Us explores the fractured relationship between Douglas, Connie and Albie. Douglas Peterson is a highly intelligent, socially awkward middle-aged scientist who has difficulty relating to his teenage son Albie. Connie is sociable, artsy and creative, and no longer believes that they connect in their marriage.
The novel follows his perspective as he intends to win his wife over during their summer holiday Interrailing around Europe with their son. The novel also recalls Douglas’s memories to when he first met and fell in love with his wife. Nicholls invokes an intimate glimpse into the lives of Connie and Albie, so much so that you forget that the novel is actually limited to Douglas’s perspective. The characters are all unique, yet still feel as though they fit together as a family in a funny sort of way. Nicholls certainly paints their particular nuances and dynamics with a careful and delicate brush. The dialogue is superb and very well thought out with some real laugh out loud moments.
Us is a very warm and funny novel, written with a great deal of confidence and wit. It is a bittersweet tale of getting older and developing. The characters make mistakes – Douglas does in particular – enough to make you wince and want to shake him, but Nicholls brings these characters to life with such warmth and skill that we respect and sympathise with their thoughts and actions. Douglas is an engaging, endearing character who transforms a novel with a rather simple plot into a grand adventure.
David Nicholls certainly has an accomplished ear for dialogue and a real talent for storytelling. Perfect for fans of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project.
By Jessica Reid