January 30

US by David Nicholls

Having loved One Day by this author, it was a no-brainer to grab this the minute it hit the shelves.

This new offering has all of  Nicholls’ trademarks – it’s witty; wry; beautifully details the ordinary; chronicles deep pain and heartache, and of course the big one, love.  And it’s funny, so it’s a good read alright.   I reckon it is on par with One Day, although of course I loved it for different reasons, but in loving it, I joined the ranks of those judges who shortlisted it for The Man Booker Prize 2014.

The story is about Douglas Peterson – an earnest scientist, married to the love of his life, Connie.  Together they are parents to an 18 year old son and they had a daughter Jane who died shortly after her birth.   Dear Douglas, he is a challenged soul. He can’t believe he got the girl of his dreams, the life of of dreams too, and in not believing it, certainly often does not know what to do with it!

He writes I am 54 years old – and have one son Albie, nicknamed Egg to whom I am devoted but who sometimes regards me with pure and concentrated disdain filling me with so much sadness and regret that I can hardly speak. 

The book doesn’t waste time heaping on his sadness.  You are not even at the end of the first page when  Connie  declares  she is thinking of leaving.

I was looking forward to us growing old and dying together, he says.

Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?! she says.

This announcement happens on the eve of a family trip of a lifetime ….. a holiday across Europe before Albie departs for college.  Not exactly the recipe for a jolly vacation but bless the English and their stiff upper lips,  they head off regardless full of forced smiles, frayed nerves and bulging back-packs.  And despite Douglas’s military style planning, things go tits up and things implode.  Of course!

Add to this, Douglas’s  absolute, heartbreaking desperation to keep Connie and you have quite the holiday so despite the laughs, it is really quite stressful let me tell you.

You will need to read the book of course to find out if she goes or if she stays, if peace is restored between father and son and if love indeed finds a way, but it is worth joining them on the journey to find out.   Nicholls does not disappoint.

But that is just my 2 cents worth.