would you feel if your spouse suddenly announced her discontent with
what you thought was a perfectly fine marriage? Just to make it more
baffling, there is no other love interest, and she isn't planning on
moving out for a few more months. Middle-aged Douglas Petersen was
blind-sided, but he holds out hope that he will win back his wife during
their already planned grand tour of Europe with their
Last summer, a short time before my son was due to leave home for college, my wife woke me in the middle of the night.—Us by David Nicholls (HarperCollins / Harper, 2014, p. 5 [ARC])
At first I thought she was shaking me because of burglars. Since moving to the country my wife had developed a tendency to jerk awake at every creak and groan and rustle. I'd try to reassure her. It's the radiators, I'd say, it's the joists contracting or expanding, it's foxes. Yes, foxes taking the laptop, she'd say, foxes taking the keys to the car, and we'd lie and listen some more. There was always the "panic button" by the side of our bed, but I could never imagine pressing it in case the alarm disturbed someone, say, a burglar for instance.
- Setting: Modern times, England and various cities in Europe
- Circumstances: Organized scientist Douglas Petersen is informed by his artistic, laid-back wife, Connie, that she thinks their marriage "has run its course." Douglas, not seeing any real problem, hopes that Connie will change her mind after they re-bond during their summer holiday with their son.
- Characters: Douglas, a research scientist; his wife, Connie, and their son, Albie; Douglas's and Connie's families; various friends in England; fellow tourists they meet in Europe
- Genre: contemporary fiction
- Themes: parent-child relationships, marriage, self-discovery, love, family
- What I loved: Douglas is so well-meaning but at the same time so clueless. He is a pragmatist, whereas Connie and Albie are flexible. Douglas likes schedules; they see travel (and life) as an adventure, as something to be discovered and experienced, not controlled. The story is told through Douglas's eyes, and his misunderstandings and misinterpretations are both funny and sad. A beautiful snapshot of the life of a family who loves each other but just can't seem to find smooth waters.
- The audiobook: British actor David Haig, the narrator of the unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio; 14 hr 9 min), brought Douglas alive for me. Haig's sympathetic, expressive performance was a perfect match for this novel. (For my complete audiobook review, see AudioFile magazine.)