I loved One Day (David Nicholls, 2009.) I recall sitting abed, laughing and weeping, while my children went hungry. I cajoled Husband and my entire book club into reading it. They all, without exception, hated it and I couldn’t understand why.
The front cover of Us is emblazoned with, ‘Even better than One Day, The Times.’ I thought I was in for a treat.
The protagonist, Douglas, is a middle-aged biochemist with a teenage son and a penchant for Billy Joel. Douglas is the type of person who laminates train time-tables and queries table-quiz results. Douglas is definitely not cool. Douglas, in fact, is just like me. Sadly, for Douglas at least, his wife and son are supremely cool. They are that ultimate of cool; they are artists. He loves them, adores and idolises them. They love him and despise him. It’s horrible and sad and depressing.
The trio embark on a Grand Tour of Europe. The weaving-in of museums and paintings into the story is very clever. It would have been nice to have had the pictures included in the book but I googled as I read and really enjoyed it. Effectively, the book is illustrated by Grand Masters.
I did laugh (lots!) and I did cry. The conversational, first person narrative and very short chapters make this a really easy read. If you liked Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, you will probably like this. I pondered for a bit whether John Cusack could take the lead role here but he is WAY too cool! Poor Douglas, it seems to me, was created with Rowan Atkinson in mind.
(Which reminds me; this book brought to mind a movie I loved; Keeping Mum with Rowan Atkinson, Kirstin Scott Thomas, Patrick Swayze and Maggie Smith. There is a catch-all cast; Brains, Beauty, Brawn and, well, Maggie Smith.)
In brief, this is a well crafted, easy read that will make you laugh and, maybe, cry. I’d recommend it.
Why did I hate it?
I took it all personally.