NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Friday, October 31, 2014

Us: A Novel by David Nicholls

This is another one of those books that, once you've finished it, you want to let it simmer in your mind as you reflect on how it all affected you. Collect those reactions and try to write a review that can give a potential reader a reason to want to read it. That said, it's well worth reading. Usually I avoid those books that win prizes (call me rebellious), but I really did enjoy this one -- it both broke my heart and made me shake me head. Ah, family! Unhappy marriages are all unique in their own way...

Douglas Peterson is a scientist, typically a bit awkward socially, and he falls hard for Connie, an artsy type, that immediately appeared to me to be a bad choice of wife for him. Without having much in common, they marry and eventually have a son named Albie (nicknamed Egg???) who, when the book opens, is about to head off to study photography. Now this choice of career sort of offends his academic-minded father but bonds mother and son in a way that Douglas can't touch and he feels alienated. Especially when his wife announces that their marriage has run its course and she is "thinking" about leaving him. What?? With that shock, Douglas tries to plan a family trip -- last Grand Tour of some of the famous museums and sights of Europe, in order to somehow convince his family to come back to him. Just about everything goes wrong from the beginning and Douglas is out of his depth as both husband and father.

Although funny and poignant and hitting all those right notes of a very well written book, my problem with it was its central theme. Because I could not STAND Connie or Albie as characters, I couldn't understand why Douglas wanted them back. I found nothing redeemable in either mother or son, and that made it hard for me to accept Douglas's sincere and dogged mission. I thought both unlikeable and narcissistic (a little more understood by a teenager, but still) and actually was rooting for Douglas to see them both clearly and run away himself. The ending was a bit of a letdown because Douglas is a man I actually respected and totally felt empathy for despite his pedantic and sometimes righteous personality.

I'd recommend it to any book club as it provides a lot of material for discussion.
Amazon Vine ARC for review.

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