Us (novel)

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Us
UsNovel.jpg
First edition
AuthorDavid Nicholls
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
PublisherHodder and Stoughton (UK)
Harper (US)
Publication date
Sep 2014 (UK)
Oct 2014 (US)
Media typePrint
Pages416
ISBN0-340-89699-X

Us is a 2014 novel by English author David Nicholls for whom it won the Specsavers "UK Author of the Year" award.[1] It was also long-listed for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.[2]

Plot introduction[edit]

The book begins when Connie, frustrated artist and Douglas Petersen's wife of nearly 25 years tells him that now their son Albie is about to leave home for college, she wants to leave too. Douglas resolves that their last family holiday together, a 'grand tour' of the cultural and artistic gems of Europe will "be the trip of a lifetime, one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again".[3]

The narrative then alternates between the story of the disastrous trip, at the start of which Albie deserts his parents in Amsterdam, and that of his unlikely courtship and marriage to Connie, contrasting his disciplined scientific life as a biochemist with Connie's spontaneous artistic character.

Reception[edit]

  • Tim Auld in The Telegraph, praises the novel, concluding "Us is a quiet joy, written with an undemonstrative simplicity that is hard to achieve. It’s also a novel that captures the zeitgeist and will speak to many middle-aged people who find that their marriage has run its course and realise they must start out on a new romantic journey. It won’t make waves like One Day, but then, no writer should expect that kind of success more than once in a lifetime.[4]
  • Matt Cain writing in The Independent refuses to be critical "a reviewer is only ever respected if he demolishes someone's work and even if he loves it can often feel duty-bound to toss in at least one criticism. But I'm not going to do this as I think Us is a perfect book. And I don't care if that means I've failed as a reviewer, because I've already won as a reader."[5]
  • In the Mail Online, Craig Brown highlights the novel's comedy, "Us is very funny and very moving, often at the same time...In one extremely short chapter, called ‘a brief history of art’, he manages to deliver the entire history of art from cave paintings to the present day, in about 20 lines. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve read this year, and wonderfully transgressive...Yet the novel is far more than a series of comic set-pieces. Reading it, you realise quite how many important areas of real life are ignored or avoided by most novelists, possibly because they are so hard to render. How to convey a good marriage that has withered, but a love that has endured? How to describe the lifelong process of ageing within the brief confines of a novel? How to express the possibility for optimism among people who believe themselves to have reached a dead end? How to convey the at times unbearable tension of day-to-day life without resorting to melodrama? David Nicholls can do it all, and – even more difficult – somehow make it look easy."[6]
  • Jay McInerney in The New York Times had some reservations though: "Nicholls is a deft craftsman, a skilled storyteller and a keen observer of contemporary mores. It would be interesting to see him challenge himself to dig deeper under the surface of contemporary life. Us will probably be welcomed by his legions of fans, though it’s unlikely to surprise or challenge or unsettle them in any way — or to provoke them to look at each other with a wild surmise."[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alison Flood (27 November 2014). "David Nicholls and David Walliams win top prizes at National Book Awards". The Guardian. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  2. ^ Man Booker Prize: Commonwealth authors edged out - BBC News Retrieved 2015-05.11.
  3. ^ First edition back cover
  4. ^ Us review: 'a quiet joy', David Nicholls follows his bestselling novel One Day with a discreetly brilliant story of love in middle age, The Telegraph, 26 Sep 2014. Retrieved 10-05-2015.
  5. ^ Follow-up to hit novel One Day is heartbreaking and joyous, The Independent, 18 Sept 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  6. ^ Liked One Day? Then you'll find this absolutely fabulous, Mail Online, 20 Sep 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  7. ^ Sunday Book Review, The New York Times, Jan 20 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-10.

External links[edit]