One good thing about my terrible habit of starting books and then just leaving them in my Kindle unfinished, is that I was able to use many of them for the challenge and kill two birds with one stone by making my way through items in the kindle. The 23rd book, Us by David Nicholls, is one such example. Being a majorly adoring fan of Nichols’ last book (One Day), I was excited to read this one.
My first impression was that it wasn’t as good as One Day (but I LOVED that book so much I was sad for days after finishing it). The plot line was very different and the characters as well. In Us, Nichols tells the story of Douglas and Connie, a long-time married couple. Douglas is shocked when Connie announces she’d like a divorce just before their son Albie is about to move out of the house and venture out on his own. Even so, the family of three decides to go on a Grand Tour of Europe before their son moves out. The couple decide not to discuss their potential split up while on the trip.
If it sounds like a recipe for disaster, that’s because it is. Albie is your typical fiction teenager – surly, uninterested, etc. Sometimes I really dislike the way they write teenagers in books. I know many teenagers are little jerks but they’re not always the same stereotype of horrible. In Albie’a case, he seemed disinterested only in his father and would make fun of him, along with his mother.
The book has two stories happening: the breakdown of the marriage and then the search for Albie, who leave his parents in mid-vacation. Souglas decides he needs to try to find him to mend their relationship. At this point in the story (about halfway), it was unclear whether the book’s focus was the marriage or the parent/child relationship.
Speaking of the marriage, however, it seemed that Douglas and Connie were very mismatched. The narration goes back and forth between past and present, showing how they met. Even as a younger couple, they seem to love each other but possibly not really like each other (if that makes any sense at all!). Douglas even mentions that Connie had an affair six months into their marriage and yet he is still completely shocked when she reveals she wants a divorce many years later. Now as someone whose never been married, I can’t speak to the realism of their relationship and the complexities of a marriage, but I can assume that Nicholls has it mostly correct, being as one the things I like best about his writing are his characters.
However, the marriage problems fade and the father-son relationship between Douglas and Albie takes center-stage. I suppose this is the ambiguity of the title – “us” can refer to any manner of “uses” including more than two people. Ultimately the book is about the changing dynamics of relationships.
While reading, I took to the narrator. Even though at times he could be stubborn, he was a like able guy and it was frustrating when his wife and son would hang up on him throughout the story. However, his intentions throughout the entire book are good and he spends much of it trying to fix a mistake he makes in not coming to his son’s defense at a certain point. Though this book did not have the “I can’t do anything but read this!” quality, I did enjoy it.
Other Posts in this Series:
Book # 22: A Book with a Love Triangle – Euphoria, by Lily King
Book # 21: A Book Set in Your Hometown – The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, by Andrew Sean Greer
Book # 20: A Book with Nonhuman Characters – Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips
Book # 19: Nonfiction – Gumption, by Nick Offerman
Book # 18: A Book Set During Christmastime – A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Book # 17: A Popular Author’s First Book – Carrie, by Stephen King
Book # 16: A Book Based Entirely on It’s Cover – Paper Towns, by John Green
Book # 15: A Book Your Mom Loves – Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Book # 14: A Book Set in a Place You Want to Visit – Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Book # 13: A Book with a Number in the Title – Eleven, by Mark Watson
Book # 12: A Book by an Author You’ve Never Read – Let’s Cure Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris
Book # 11: A Book with a Color in the Title – One Lavender Ribbon, by Heather Burch
Book # 10: A Book at the Bottom of Your To-Read List – If You Were Here, by Jen Lancaster
Book # 9: A Book Set in a Different Country – The Secret Place, by Tana French
Book # 8: A Book with Antonyms in the Title – Together Apart, by Natalie Martin
Book # 7: A Book Set in the Future – Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Book # 6: A Book By a Female Author – We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
Book # 5: A Book More Than 100 Years Old – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Book # 4: A Play – Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
Book # 3: A Book You Started But Never Finished – The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
Book # 2: A Mystery or Thriller – The Silence That Speaks, by Andrea Kane
Book # 1: A Book Published This Year – The Glass Kitchen, by Linda Francis Lee