Us is a story about a guy in his mid-50s struggling to come to terms with a wife who might leave him, a son who can’t stand him and a life that hasn’t turned out the way he had hoped it would. Sounds thrilling, no? 😉
Despite this pretty grim outline, there are some genuinely wonderful and funny moments in this book. Unfortunately, for all the funny and heart-warming moments, there were just as many times the story was frustrating, unnecessary or just plain annoying.
Take the central relationship, for example. First we have Douglas: basically a decent human being, but also uptight, conservative, boring and over-the-top sensible; in a lot of ways, he’s very similar to Don from The Rosie Project, minus the Asperger’s. On the other hand, there’s Connie: a beautiful, vivacious, free-spirited artist. They meet at a party and fall in love – an unlikely match, opposite’s attract, blah blah blah. Fine, great, wonderful. Except, in my opinion, they are more than just an ‘unlikely match’. Call me a cynic, but I felt like the pairing of someone like Douglas with someone like Connie had the slightest whiff of wish fulfilment on the author’s part. In what world does the enigmatic Connie fall for, marry, have children with someone as painful as Douglas? Again, I know I’m probably being really cynical here, but I just didn’t buy it.
I also couldn’t decide what Nicholls wanted me to think of Douglas – was I supposed to be on his side? At times, I got the feeling that he was trying to portray Douglas as charmingly naive, particularly when it came to his parenting ‘mishaps’, but most of the time I thought he came across as wilfully ignorant.
For me, the flaws were mostly in the characterisation. The story itself was enjoyable and easy to read. There were some interesting jaunts into Europe that I liked, and some really thoughtful writing throughout. I just wish Nicholls had filled that world with better protagonists.
I give this one 5 out of 10 prostitutes with a heart of gold.