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Surely I can't be the only BGOer to be reading this?
It is David Nicholls first novel since One Day, which I loved, so I had high hopes for this, and I really enjoyed it.
Douglas, a biochemist not unlike a more believable Don from The Rosie Project, has been married to artist Connie for more than 20 years when she announces out of the blue that she thinks they should separate. They have a big family holiday planned, a Grand Tour of Europe with their son Albie before he starts college, and she agrees to defer a decision until they get back. Douglas is devoted to his wife and decides to save his marriage.
The story of their trip is then offset with flashbacks of the history of their relationship.

Douglas is a believable, well rounded character. I found his uptight nature very sympathetic - I am a bit like that too. The family scenes are well done; there is a fundamental clash of outlooks between Douglas and Connie which is painful. And, a bit like One Day, there are many observations about modern life.

The one thing that bothered me was Albie. I found him quite old for his years, and it was the one unrealistic note for me in the book. But maybe that's what happens when your mum's an old hippy. Or I must know a lot of very sheltered teenagers.

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I suppose I liked this novel for essentially non-literary reasons.  Like Douglas I’ve had my tick-lists in European capitals, my first art book was Gombrich’s, the DIY abilities of Douglas are akin to my husband’s: quite a few recognition factors in fact.

 

So, an eminently readable novel but it nagged at me that it was somewhat formulaic.  Nicholls certainly had an eye on his target readership

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I thought this started off really well, David Ncholls is brilliant at set scenes and sly comments, the one about descriptions of middle aged sex makes me giggle every time I think about it but for me the story began to lose momentum and I was getting bored near the end.

 

Part of the problem was that though Douglas was sympathetic and utterly believable, though it's hard to accept that anyone could have been married to Connie for over 20 years and be that uptight,  Connie was always smug in her own arty superiority and Albie started off as a pain and remained a pain until very nearly the end - and the continually smug and unrelenting pains eventually get dull.

 

A disappointment.

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Finished this a few days ago, once we had returned from our week away and I could resume after having left it behind.  I did enjoy it, and it gave me quite a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, mainly from the Douglas point of view.

I quite liked Douglas but found Connie irritating, especially in the way in which she seemed to "team up" with their son Albie from a very early age, sharing private jokes, secret whispers and nearly always undermining Douglas.  While he may have been a little uptight it was usually, if not always, with the best intentions and I felt that he often received no support from Connie in his dealings with Albie, especially as he grew into the archetypal surly teenager.  My view on being parents (if it's worth a jot) is that you support each other in the moment, and then discuss any differing views later.  Maybe that's an old-fashioned outlook but.....

 

As Viccie posted above Connie came across as smug; I felt that she hitched up with Douglas for stability when it seemed that her own life needed it, but then expected him to change into some kind of maverick free spirit, which he quite clearly was not, even though he tried to be what he thought she wanted him to be.

Douglas wasn't perfect by any means, his somewhat pernickity nature would grate, admittedly, but he was essentially a good honest man.

 

Worringly, however, I turned 54 last week, the same age as Douglas, and now that CP has also started to read this she happened to mention that, on occasion, she hears a noise downstairs and I am despatched to investigate.  So far I haven't returned to the comment that Douglas returns to on page one!!

I could, though, identify with quite a bit of Douglas' world.

 

A quote on the cover of the book says "better than One Day".  Not sure I would quite agree; I enjoyed both in a light-hearted way, but I think I preferred One Day. As I unwittingly spoilt that one for CP I am under strict orders to keep my trap shut about US.

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I finished this book last night and would have to say that I agree with virtually all of the previous comments. I liked Douglas very much and thought him to be a very believable character. Although uptight and ,at times, unable to show his true emotions I think that he always acts with good intentions and genuinely loves his wife and son deeply. As with most other readers I was less keen on Connie and her lack of support for Douglas really wound me up at times. She basically called the shots throughout their relationship and seemed to have a knack of continually causing Douglas to feel as if he had failed her.

 

My feelings towards Albie were less clear than those for the other two. I often wondered what he would be like without his Mother's constant influence, still a stroppy teenager I suspect but maybe a little less hard on his Father!

 

As with other readers I thought that the book started well but ran out of steam towards the end. It actually took me a fair few days to finally finish this book as by the end I almost felt as if I did not care about the final outcome, unlike One Day which made me howl. Us is an easy to read enjoyable book but after One Day a little disappointing.

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Nicholls, David.  Us

 

David Nicholls’s latest novel begins with a bombshell:  Connie, the heroine, ‘thinks’ that her marriage to Douglas has run its course and she wants to end it.  Douglas, a scientist whose work entails research into the habits of fruit fly, is naturally distraught and for the next 400 pages spends his time wondering why.   So of course does the reader.  Douglas is the teller of the tale and his life and opinions dominate the book.  He tells us how he met and fell in love with Connie nearly thirty years ago, sandwiching retrospect with accounts of his present struggle to accept that separation or divorce is a real possibility.  This is the structure of the novel - one agonising step forward, two consolatory steps backwards.  The forwards movement is however intensified by the fact that the couple have promised themselves a Grand Tour of Europe, accompanired by their sole offspring, the rebellious teenager, Albie, who hates his father and dotes on and is indulged by his mother.  The Grand Tour in fact is the catalyst that could make or break the marriage.

 

There is a marked contrast between the protagonists, he being rational and scientific, Connie artistic and guided by (a term he mocks) ‘emotional intelligence.’  One’s sympathies are naturally divided, but the reader is subjected to Douglas’s old fashioned views and what to Connie, and especially Albie, are repressive constraints, such as tidy house-keeping, time-keeping and good manners.  Much humour is extracted on the Tour from their predictably contrasting attitudes.  

 

The book recalled to me another classic in the what might be termed the ‘sex wars’ genre, Warren Adler’s The War of the Roses, in which a woman wreaks havoc on her marriage, but Connie is less bellicose than Rose and cares deeply about her child.  Her character in fact makes a good claim for the existence of Douglas’s much despised term ‘emotional intelligence.’  But like Adler’s book, in this examination of modern marriage, the issues are faced and dealt with incisively; there are no answers, only people struggling to cope with the internal and external pressures of modern life.

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