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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Us by David Nicholls

Two reasons to expect this book to not be of the most uplifting variety:  it was long listed for the Booker Prize this year and it was written by the author of 'One Day', who upset just about everyone with the down beat ending of that book.  The author has a reputation.  As Mark Lawson observed in his review of the book:   "When an acquaintance revealed recently that he'd married a woman he met by chance on a train, I said, "Very David Nicholls", to which he replied: "Yes, very. It wasn't until three years after that meeting that we actually got together."
Nicholls has become one of the few authors whose name serves as conversational shorthand: in his case, for the ambushes of romance.  However, he writes beautifully, with truth and wisdom, so you will have to forgive him his lack of uplifting themes.
The book opens with some bad news.  Douglas is told by his wife of 25 plus years that she thinks their marriage is over.  But she does want to persevere through their summer trip through the great art galleries of Europe with their aspiring artist 17 year old son for his sake.  It is unclear why people feel compelled to disclose things as they happen rather than in a kind way, but while this is fiction, the same thing happens in life as well.  The trip does not go in any way as planned.  Douglas, it turns out, is the last guy you want booking your holiday and Albie, the son, is already more than suspicious that his parents are splitting up and he doesn't want to be monkey in the middle.  Douglas works to redeem himself all the way through to the end.  All I can say on that count is that is nowhere near as dire as the ending of his previous book.

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