Rating: 4.5/5 stars
It was on a grim, depressing day that I picked up ‘Us’ by David Nicholls. Walking around the bookstore in the mall that I usually go to when I need some me time, I spotted this book sitting against a number of Agatha Christies – a very unusual place to be, in my opinion. The very intriguing cover piqued my dull senses and I gave the blurb a once over:
“Douglas and Connie: scientist and artist, and for more than twenty years, husband and wife – until suddenly, their marriage seems over.
But Douglas is going to win back the love of his wife and the respect of Albie, their teenage son, by organising the holiday of a lifetime.
He has booked the hotels, bought the train tickets, planned and printed the itinerary for a ‘grand tour’ of the great art galleries of Europe.
What could possibly go wrong?”
It somehow called to me on a deeper level. Maybe (if I’m exaggerating more than necessary) a sense of identification of the morbidity plunging through both our hearts. So yes, I bought this book. I was going to go on this ‘grand tour’ of redemption with Douglas and try to win back his family.
As opposed to the dull mood that I bought this book in, it was in a highly excited mood that I started reading it. ‘Us’ has dark humor prevailing in almost all its pages. The protagonist, Douglas Petersen, a British biochemist, looks like he takes exceptionally subtle digs at himself using the aforementioned dark humor. You almost do a double take and snort when you realize what you’ve just read.
‘Us’ is a humorous story that shows Douglas’ yearning for the love of his son, Albie, and a yearning for the continuation of the love that he has had for more than 20 years. David Nicholls twists it into one that’s beautiful in its own dark, twisted way.
Douglas’ character is well-written by David Nicholls and evokes a number of emotions in you – anger, disgust, affection, irritation, pity, and maybe even a teeny bit of love. This, despite him being plain stupid and childish sometimes. Constantly picking on someone, having twisted theories of life and love, acting like a scientist even outside of his lab, imminent rudeness! You’d hate such a person, but we all have such a character in our lives – unrelenting, unyielding, unaccommodating!
The pity you feel for him sort of fades away as the story progresses. It gives you a moment to wonder why families feel disconnected at times. Their ideas might make you scowl, cringe, and raise your ideas at them, but family is family. You do things for them that you’d never do for anyone else, even for yourself.
David Nicholls has written ‘Us’ in a rather impressively swinging narrative that alternates between Douglas and Connie’s youth and parenthood. Maybe to show us how much people can change over the course of years together.
Though ‘Us’ is a slightly tedious read, it is jarringly haunting and brings you back to Earth. Douglas and Connie’s love story tells you that nothing is unachievable and also that things can go wrong at any point in our lives. Don’t be blind to what’s happening around you. Be sensitive to other people’s feelings. Help them understand you better. Don’t dismiss anyone easily.
And most importantly, respect the person you are in a relationship with – any relationship for that matter, be they your better half, child, parents, or friends!
All in all, a beautiful comic-tragic read by David Nicholls! I love it!
Picture Courtesy: Amazon.co.uk