Us, the 2014 novel by David Nicholls, starts out at the end of a 20-something year marriage. Connie tells her husband, Douglas, that she wants to leave him. This happens right before they have a grand tour of Europe planned. Connie and Douglas decide to go ahead with the trip, despite their situation, since it’s the last one planned before their son, Albie, leaves home for college. Douglas secretly hopes the trip will bring him closer to Albie, and maybe solve the problems between him and Connie, and save the marriage.
The novel is told from Douglas’ point of view.
The trip goes horribly wrong in Amsterdam when Albie, fed up with his father’s over-controlling nature (Douglas handed out laminated itineraries before the trip, for instance), runs off with a street musician he’d recently met. Connie goes home to England, resolving to let her son choose his own path. Douglas remains, determined to track down Albie – somewhere in Europe. He hopes that both Connie and Albie will be so impressed with his determination that things will be resolved between father and son, and the marriage will be saved.
The novel alternates between flashbacks – how an artist (Connie) and a biochemist (Douglas) met and became married, and how things went so badly in Douglas’ raising of Albie – and a hunt through Europe for a teenage boy who doesn’t want to be found.
It all sounds a rather grim novel, and it is, but it’s also comedic. The comedy was hit-or-miss with me. There were funny moments that were witty and had me laughing. There were, however, moments of slapstick that didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story. (Douglas proves his manhood by eating a hot pepper. What could possibly go wrong?)
I enjoyed the novel, I really did. I didn’t know how the story would end, or how it would get there. Don’t take the fact that it took me two library renewals to complete it, as a lack of interest. I really did like Us.