David Nicolls : ‘One Day’ Author’s new novel ‘Us’

‘US’ by David Nicolls

Oh David Nicholls, the time has come for us to part ways. Having raced through ‘One Day’ only to be faced with disappointment at the finish line, I decided to give you a second chance with your latest bestseller ‘Us’.

As a result of your latest offering, post ‘Us’, I can safely say it’s not me, it’s you.

Before legions of Nicholls fans crucify me for insulting their idol, I urge them to put down the hammer and nails; I freely admit his books are not without redeeming features – I simply think his narrative conclusions are not among them.

Just as readers everywhere were caught in the web spun by Emma and Dexter’s will-they-won’t-they saga, bookworms cannot fail to be drawn into the failing marriage of Douglas and Connie as they drag their obligatory sour teenage son around Europe.

[Us by David Nicholls – UK book trailer]

Despite the stereotypical adolescent, Nicholls is still able to persuade readers to sympathise with his protagonists. In spite of their many flaws, we care when Douglas-the-drudge attempts to force a relationship with his son and win back his wife.

When Connie- the-cold reveals the extent of her misery within their marriage, your heart breaks a little.

The writer has also stretched his stylistic wings in this latest offering- possibly the reason for his surprise inclusion in this years’ Booker Longlist. Where there was once plain prose we now find an anti-chronology, language and sentence structure are more playful, and the result is a more pleasurable, yet no less engaging.

Whilst Nicholls is able to effortlessly draw us in to the lives and hearts of his characters, he also punishes us for our investment with his unexpected yet uncrafted ending.

I feel upon reading his conclusions as if I can see the cogs turn in the pen-wielders skull as he as he avoids the obvious and the twee (e.g. a happy ending for the late Emma and her grieving Dexter) only to pick a culmination based on shock tactics rather than artistic merit.

I am no happy-ever -after junkie, but I felt outraged rather than despair when Emma’s heart beat it’s last. It was as if, unsure what to do with the lovebirds now their stars had uncrossed he killed his darlings simply because he was out of ideas.

I had my fingers crossed that this mistake would be a one-off, that the literary leanings good old David was revealing would produce a narrative close worthy of his tale, one that showed planning, craft and artistry.

Yet, without spoiling the tale for future readers, I regret ‘Us’ again falls at the final hurdle. Explosions are forsaken in favour of a damp sad squib, to draw shock and sadness but never awe or admiration.

If you liked ‘One Day’, then prepare to relive the smiles shocks tears and tantrums. If your glasses are less rosy and value artistry and depth in your personal library, then save yourself the disappointment, don’t invest in his characters if you don’t want the cheque to bounce at closing time.

Written by Hannah Cooper (MA Journalism student of Birkbeck College)


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