Today on I’m reviewing One Day and US, contemporary literary fiction, written by David Nicholls.
I read ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls about eight years ago, when it first came out. It was before I started reviewing the books I read.
I loved everything about One Day, especially the way the plot was structured, taking one day every year for twenty years, starting on the day Dex and Em meet in their final year at Edinburgh University.
Those who haven’t seen read the book have probably seen the film, so although there may be few spoilers to disclose, I’ll just say that it’s not until the final devastating scene that we discover the importance of the day.
I cried at the end, at the injustice and absurdity of the ending, and the pain and loss of the characters I had come to know so well. Although they were both infuriating at times!
I know some readers thought it was slow and repetitive, and I agree that Dex and Em seemed to be going round in circles and taking one step forward in their lives and two steps backwards, for years, but unfortunately, such was the story of their lives.
I recently discovered that the author, David Nicholls had written another novel, which is humorous and poignant, so I decided to give it a go, and although I guessed it would be emotional, I wasn’t prepared for an even more devastating ending than One Day.
When I finished listening to ‘Us’ on Audible, I was sitting in my garden, watching my grandson playing with his father, my son. They looked up in surprised as I rushed into the house, grabbed a tissue and ran upstairs.
’I’m OK,’ I managed to mumble on my way out. ‘I’ve just finished a novel’, and they carried on with their game, while I cried for a few minutes in the privacy of my bedroom, because it’s all right to cry at the end of a film, but it’s too personal to let people watch you cry when you finish reading a book.
Nobody dies at the end, although I thought they might. In fact it’s an optimistic, albeit not happy ending, in the traditional sense, but it’s very emotional.
US is a perceptive, sensitive and humorous account of the birth, life and death of a 25 -year- old relationship, told in the first person by Douglas, the husband. Douglas, Connie, his wife, and Albie, their son, are the main players in the story.
I found neither Connie nor Albie likeable. Mother and son were both selfish and I thought Connie also lacked integrity, but I’d have to include spoilers to explain why.
The family dynamics were unhealthy. Douglas’s relationship with his rebellious and artistic son was strained, and part of this strain was due to the mother and son tandem, which purposefully excluded Douglas. Consequently, it is when father and son are eventually alone that they are able to reach an understanding and mutual respect.
One of my favourite parts was the description of the family holiday around Europe, to France, Germany, Italy and Spain, especially the museums they visited and the people they met on the way. I’ve been to many of the places mentioned, and their descriptions and adventures brought back memories of my own trips.
US is a very perceptive, honest and realistic representation of contemporary family life. Many controversial issues, such as parenting, sex, drugs, the social and professional pressures of modern life, marriage, etc. are brought up.
I’m still trying to figure out why I was so upset at the end, because it is a hopeful ending of second chances and new beginnings, unfortunately, a new beginning, means there has to be an ending, too.
Overall, it’s much more optimistic, dynamic, and feel good than One Day, especially due to Douglas’s sense of humour and attitude.
US is also one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year.
By the way, the narrator on Audible, David Haig, was fabulous. I really felt I was listening to Douglas tell me his story.
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