I began reading Us due to my curiosity about whether or not it really was better than One Day, which had me re-reading a major plot element and crying for about twenty minutes, hating the author.
So I abandoned Go Set A Watchman for the moment on my trip to Stockholm (it weighed a ton) and began the story, about a forty-something scientist whose wife announces, unexpectedly, that she wants to leave him.
The usual David Nicholls elements were there, but instead of shifting between perspectives like I’d loved about Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley, it was all from Douglas Peterson’s point of view. He’s witty, clearly intelligent and is likeable after the first couple of pages, although it was hard to see exactly what I should get excited about to carry on reading at first.
Connie, his artist wife, is described as incredibly attractive, who he adores and he recalls where and how they first met, and how his passion for his work impressed her.
Then, there’s Albie, or Egg as his parents fondly call him. He’s 17, an artist like his mother, and who Douglas describes as ‘constantly dirty.’ A heartbreaker, Albie doesn’t hide the fact that he resents his dad.
The main scenario is that Douglas plans a trip across Europe with his wife and son, which he hopes will win back the love of his wife and earn the respect and love of Albie. It is during the ‘Grand Tour’ that I began feeling sorry for Douglas, as his family seemed to barely acknowledge his efforts, even if he was boring them.
I struggled for some time to keep going back to the book, only because I think I placed too much expectation on it blowing me away like One Day. There didn’t seem to be any obvious twist, which Nicholls was good at previously in shattering my hopes and dreams for the characters I’d loved.
So I gave it a chance, and FINALLY, there was a plot twist, changing the course of the story and the emotional, often eye-opening aspects to life and coincidence which I’ve always found fascinating unfolded in each chapter.
Nicholls’ novel is a treasure trove of how difficult relationships can be in the twenty-first century, sifting between the past memories shared between Connie and Douglas and the father’s need to feel loved by his son.
It’s also a testament to how well Nicholls can surprise the reader – placing plot twists in places when you least expect, often delivering news that’s said so casually by Douglas you always have to re-read what he said to double-check it actually happened.
Most of all, it’s definitely a book worth reading in order to remind you that not everything lasts, we all grow up and change and relationships can end, but you as a person are the only one who can be the solution to your problems.
Coincidentally, walking home today, my ex-boyfriend and I bumped into each other. I thought it was funny how I didn’t feel anger anymore, or sadness, just said Hi and then asked if everything was ‘OK’ now between us.
His response was yes, after a pause, and I nodded and smiled then walked the opposite direction, convenient as we are obviously separate now, but were once together for four years.
I shared different experiences with this person, good and bad, and have chosen not to reflect on it as regretful. So I could emphasise with Douglas in that people can be crap, but you can choose how you feel about them and who you want to be.