Monday, 31 August 2015

bookclub #4

Welcome back to my second book feature; an online bookclub I'm sharing with Lorna, Leanne and Charli. You may notice I'm missing #3... totally my fault, I forgot to buy the book and then couldn't borrow from Lorna in time. Doh! 

#4: Us by David Nicholls

Everyone has read One Day, right? If you've not read it, or seen the film, then you must. I read it way back in 2012 and still remember how much I loved the book and I think the film even more so. I don't really remember the details of what happened, but I do remember crying like a baby - always a sign of a good story!

So I had high hopes for Us and had heard mixed reviews. My Mum wasn't fussed by it, whereas others sang its praises. I suppose I come somewhere in the middle, but more towards the 'yes' side than 'no'.

Us is a story about Douglas and Connie, and their relationship. Interestingly however this is written from Douglas' perspective rather than Connie's - something we don't get to see too often in this type of novel. Connie and Douglas' relationship seems to be over after Connie tells Douglas she wants to leave him, which comes as a complete shock and surprise to him. Rather than accepting this fate, Douglas is determined to win Connie over, and in turn their son Albie who has become rather estranged from his father. They set upon the holiday of a lifetime; a tour of Europe encompassing Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Venice, Florence, Madrid and Barcelona.

As you can imagine, the grand tour doesn't go completely as planned and this book follows their journey. If you have visited any of these cities or are interested in art and history then this book will be right up your street; there is a whole wealth of information woven into the narrative. I have to admit I found some descriptions fairly lengthy and arduous and skim read some chapters. The chapters themselves are worthy of note - they vary in length but many are very short which I appreciate. I hate struggling through trying to finish a chapter, and equally hate putting a book down mid way through a chapter! The short chapters mean you can dip in and out easily, but also gives the book some momentum.

Like other novels written by Nicholls, it can feel like not much is happening. I remember reading both One Day and The Understudy and struggling in places with the lack of a 'story', but that is made up for with strong, relatable characters. I really felt Douglas' plight, but became increasingly frustrated with his actions and thought processes, as the different chapters (another past/present alternating chapter set up, snooze) showed how he had got to be the way he is with Connie and Albie. I really grew to dislike Connie - in the earlier chapters I liked her free-spirited nature but later in the book found her a bit pretentious and hard work.

Overall I enjoyed Us, but did find myself skim reading the last quarter. A little wordy in places, but on the whole another offering from David Nicholls which really allows you to imagine, picture and empathise with the characters. That said, it's no One Day...


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