Summary and book reviews of Us by David Nicholls

Us

A Novel

by David Nicholls

Us by David Nicholls X
Us by David Nicholls
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2014, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

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About this Book

Book Summary

A compellingly human, deftly funny new novel about what holds marriages and families together—and what happens, and what we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart.

Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn't be worse. Hoping to encourage her son's artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world's greatest works of art as a family, and she can't bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie.

Narrated from Douglas's endearingly honest, slyly witty, and at times achingly optimistic point of view, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves, and learning how to get closer to a son who's always felt like a stranger. Us is a moving meditation on the demands of marriage and parenthood, the regrets of abandoning youth for middle age, and the intricate relationship between the heart and the head. And in David Nicholls's gifted hands, Douglas's odyssey brings Europe—from the streets of Amsterdam to the famed museums of Paris, from the cafés of Venice to the beaches of Barcelona—to vivid life just as he experiences a powerful awakening of his own. Will this summer be his last as a husband, or the moment when he turns his marriage, and maybe even his whole life, around?

1. the burglars

Last summer, a short time before my son was due to leave home for college, my wife woke me in the middle of the night.

At first I thought she was shaking me because of burglars. Since moving to the country my wife had developed a tendency to jerk awake at every creak and groan and rustle. I'd try to reassure her. It's the radiators, I'd say; it's the joists contracting or expanding; it's foxes. Yes, foxes taking the laptop, she'd say, foxes taking the keys to the car, and we'd lie and listen some more. There was always the 'panic button' by the side of our bed, but I could never imagine pressing it in case the alarm disturbed someone – say, a burglar for instance.

I am not a particularly courageous man, not physically imposing, but on this particular night I noted the time – a little after four – sighed, yawned and went downstairs. I stepped ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Us is a pleasurable read with short, comic chapters that also treads on satisfying emotional territory. It's possible to be cynical about reading a book that is expected to be a big commercial juggernaut, or a gateway to something bigger and more lucrative (the film) – but seeing Us through that lens would underestimate a book that is, as it should be, more than a pre-screenplay "treatment." There is emotional truth and subtlety here, in Douglas Petersen's view of the world, that will never make it to the big screen.   (Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder).

Full Review (671 words).

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Media Reviews

New York Times
In his latest…Mr. Nicholls again deals with love lost and possibly found, offering an unpredictable (and less grim) ending…. Mr. Nicholls mines the setup for laughs, as he should, but he also provides a poignant story of regret in middle age.

People, Book of the Week
The Petersen family travels through Europe with more emotional baggage than luggage in Nicholls’s winning follow-up to his 2009 bestseller One Day . . . Few authors do messed-up relationships better than Nicholls.

The Washington Post
Nicholls is a delightfully funny writer…and this over-planned vacation makes ripe material for comedy…Us evolves into a poignant consideration of how a marriage ages, how parents mess up and what survives despite all those challenges.

O, The Oprah Magazine
A smartly optimistic romantic comedy that uses angst and humor to illuminate the resilience of the human heart… Part requiem, part reboot, Douglas’s...efforts to preserve his disintegrating family take him on another kind of journey, too, from despair to unexpected joy.

Good Housekeeping
A thoughtful, funny, authentic story…Pitch-perfect dialogue and seamless action propel the story forward in a way that feels cinematic.…This is the kind of book that reminds us what it means to be alive. How often does a reader get to feel that?

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This is Nicholls's most ambitious work to date, and his realistically flawed characters are somehow endearing despite the many bruises they inflict upon each other.

Booklist
Starred Review. Nicholls brings his trademark wit and wisdom to this by turns hilarious and heartbreaking examination of a long-term marriage…. This tender novel will further cement Nicholls’ reputation as a master of romantic comedy.

Library Journal
Starred Review. For those who loved One Day, the author's latest is another heart-grabber about discovering what makes us happy and learning to let go.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Evocative of its European locales—London, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Madrid—and awkward family vacations everywhere, this is a funny and moving novel perfect for a long journey.

The Daily Mail (UK)
Liked One Day? Then you’ll find this absolutely fabulous.… Very funny and very moving, often at the same time.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

Another brilliant Nicholls offering!
Us is the fourth novel by British author, screenwriter, and actor, David Nicholls. With his seventeen-year-old son, Albie soon to head off to college to study photography, Douglas Petersen is looking forward to growing old with his beloved, beautiful...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Grand Tour

In David Nicholls' novel, Us, a couple sets out to show their son Europe as a parting gift before he heads to college. It's to be a Grand Tour, the mother tells her son, "to prepare you for the adult world, like in the eighteenth century." She explains that it was "traditional for young men of a certain class and age to embark on a cultural pilgrimage to the continent...taking in certain ancient sites and works of art before returning to Britain as sophisticated, civilized men of experience. In practice the culture was largely an excuse for drinking and whoring and getting ripped off." The son is skeptical about this project. "So why don't I just go to Ibiza?" he asks.

The idea of "The Grand Tour" is at least as old as the seventeenth ...

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