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Fiction

My Hiatus from reading and a short review of “Us”

Six months since my last post and 4 months since I finished a book.

What have changed?

  • WordPress revamped all its features and gave me a dumb-down version of writing a post. I am not accustomed to it because I can’t seem to find my normal widgets and settings.
  • I discovered that there are still people who read my work and added me on their reading list, not many but there is still people out there. All is not lost for the five years I toiled to build content to the blog (thank you!).
  • I found out that I miss the solace and escapism a book can offer. Part of the reason I was pulled down by the miserable weather and everything that is going on at work was because I didn’t read enough. Not reading or learning anything inspiring to chase away the blues.
  • My house stays cleaner because I always spend time cleaning it and I get a lot of work done at work but it doesn’t give me the same satisfaction of reading and reviewing a book.
  • Kindle has become so indispensable because the only time I can get any reading done is when I am on the train, in the tube, reading with one hand.
  • I missed mentioning my 6th anniversary of my blog last Nov 2014 although the recent year I have been inactive.

I read some good books from last Sept – Nov last year and I want to talk about some of them in depth but not sure when I will get around doing this.

Londoners We are all besides ourselves Palace in the old villageI capture the castleIan-McEwan-The-Children-ActLean inThe_goldfinch_by_donna_tart

So I decided that let’s talk about “Us” because I just finished it today, and if I have any issue with Us, I think we should air it out now. 😉

US

Us is a must read book for all of us who lives in the UK because David Nicholls’ books are so popular that every one of them was made into a movie and so I heard the same from this one.

This one is close to my heart because it is set in somewhere in a village near Reading. Compared to One Day, this one feels more mature, with more depth, grounded and melancholic, without losing the humour.

Douglas Petersen described himself as inconspicuous and lacks the attractive feature that draws a second look from any passers-by. A bio-chemist by profession, Douglas wants what is normal, routine and believes in being methodological, hard work and discipline. Above all he loves his family. Connie, is the opposite. Unkempt, sweet wrappers on the floor, liberal and laissez faire, is an artist. On a rebound from a bad relationship with Angelo, Connie thinks the stable and secure Douglas is what she needs.

So one night after 18 years of marriage, when his wife Connie (Moore) woke him up at night and told him that she is thinking of leaving him. Douglas’s mind went into disarray. He is confused and he looked for an answer and asked himself for a thousand times “Why???”

Albie, their only son, is going to university and about to leave home. So Douglas, Connie and their teenage son Albie embarked on a Europe trip by train, visiting the major cities of Europe – Paris, Amsterdam, Venice and so on. This could be the last trip for the family. Things were all planned until an incident happened in the middle of the trip and things went a little haywire as Douglas went out of the course of the trip, into his own adventure and as a result reached a profound realisation about his life at the end of the journey.

Using similar techniques as One Day,  the chapters alternate between the present (the Europe trip) and the past (the memory of courtship, birth, tribulations of Douglas and Connie’s marriage). With each past memory provide the context and reflection of the present. I thought this writing technique is simply brilliant. We see the cause and effect of the couple’s behaviours in the marriage to the consequence of disharmony of the family in the trip. We, the reader, understood why Douglas and Connie felt the way that they do, and why Albie felt misunderstood by his father. It is a theme of love, time and marriage, but also the awkward and complex relationship between the father and son.

As I read it from Guardian that it is pointed out to me that whilst One Day was about two people who should be together but, for the most part, don’t realise it; Us is kind of the opposite. i.e. about two people who shouldn’t be together, but realised it late in the marriage. For me, this is more sad.

Needless to say I relate and agree to Douglas point of view:

“My sister, with her much vaunted ‘big personality’, liked to surround herself with extremely ‘cool’ people, but coolness and kindness rarely go together and the fact that these people were often truly appalling, cruel, pretentious or idiotic was, to my sister, a small price to pay for their reflected glamour.”

“The problem with telling people that they can do anything they want to do is that it is objectively, factually inaccurate. Otherwise the whole world would just be ballet dancers and pop stars.”

“But why couldn’t they recognise my reservation for what it was; not narrow-mindedness, not conservatism or caution but care, a huge amount of care, an ocean of it. I disapproved because I cared. Why wasn’t that apparent?”

Five years of commuting against the tide had begun to take their toll, and I was perpetually tired, perpetually stressed and bad-tempered, so that my nightly home coming brought no pleasure to either Albie or Connie, or indeed myself. (loc 4471)

‘Forbidding it will just make it more appealing.’ This was a notion that I found alien. When my father forbade something, it became forbidden, not appealing. (loc 4777)

——————————————————————————————————-

Spoilers alert:

I relate to his exhaustion of commuting back and forth from London and Reading, I gave an air punch when few months ago I said the same thing to my almost 10-year-old son “How can you not do long division, Albie? It’s pretty basic stuff.” (location 4706). Yes, the future is terrifying, if I don’t prepare my sons for it, how would he survive? I do not believe in liberal parenting like Connie does, I believe parents are there to shape and guide, to groom and nurture. So naturally I found Connie selfish, in every way, to take Douglas as a safe harbour but not wanting to spend the rest of her life with him.

I knew the story wasn’t going to end in happily ever after but it was painful to watch and even more painful to realise that sometimes when you give everything you have got, you don’t necessarily succeed. The painful thing is for Douglas to remain friends with Connie and have her find her true love while friends ooohh and awww on “what a lovely story, how romantic,” and meanwhile all those intervening years, all that we went through together, our marriage, is contained within parentheses….. and this made me both happy and sad, because while it was pleasing to see her come back to life, it was harsh to be revealed as the encumbrance to her spirits” – Douglas

Spoiler ends

——————————————————————————————————————————–

David NicholsThey say marry the one you love and love the one you marry. Lucky is the one who had both and overcome the challenge of sustainable love but what falls within our own control is to “Love the one you marry”. There may come a time when two people are not meant to be together. When it happens, let it go and find your happiness, again.

Verdict: In my opinion, this is a better David Nicholls’ book than One Day.

four stars

Kindle. Publisher: Hodder & Stoughon Sept 2014, originally published in 1997; Length: 416 pages; Setting: Reading and Europe cities, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Siena, Madrid Source: Own copy. Finished reading on: 1st April 2015.

David Alan Nicholls is an English novelist and screenwriter. Author of wildly successful novels and scripts for the stage, television and movies. His novels include Starter for Ten (2003), The Understudy (2005), One Day (2009), and Us (2014).

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

23 thoughts on “My Hiatus from reading and a short review of “Us”

  1. Lovely to hear from you JoV 🙂

    Posted by jessicabookworm | April 2, 2015, 1:11 pm
  2. So nice to ‘hear’ from you. I lost touch with my blog – and reading – last year – but found my way back this year so maybe you will too. Even just occasionally it’s nice to hear from my old virtual friends

    I don’t like the new WordPress much either.

    Posted by bernadetteinoz | April 3, 2015, 7:57 am
    • Thanks for still being here for me Bernadette. I am guilty of losing touch and losing touch with everyone else’s blog as well. I hope you are well and yes, why change WordPress layout every few months? It may seems like it’s the WordPress’s employees KPIs to invent a new layout every year, which is measuring the wrong thing if this is the case! lol

      Posted by JoV | April 6, 2015, 9:52 pm
  3. Welcome back!! Been missing your book reviews and updates! 🙂

    Posted by Everyday Asia | April 3, 2015, 10:01 am
  4. So nice to see you blogging again! I use wordpress too and I can still access the old way of posting. Not sure if this will work for you but maybe try adding “wp-admin/edit.php” to your blog url (when you are logged into wordpress).

    Posted by olduvai | April 5, 2015, 11:25 pm
    • Nice to hear form you too Olduvai! Yes, on the same day I complained I actually spent some time playing around with it and found the WP Admin does the trick and sends me to the page that I am familiar with. 😉

      Posted by JoV | April 6, 2015, 9:53 pm
  5. How lovely to hear from you again! I missed you! And a very happy belated bloggy birthday!

    Posted by Jenny @ Reading the End | April 6, 2015, 11:53 am
    • Thank you so much Jenny!! I just need to get some organisation back to my life and have a proper reader that I can catch up with your reviews… and I’ll be in touch! 🙂

      Posted by JoV | April 6, 2015, 9:55 pm
  6. Welcome back and thanks for commenting on my blog yesterday 🙂 I really enjoyed Us too – it wasn’t so much a rollercoaster of emotions compared to One Day but very moving all the same.

    Posted by A Little Blog of Books | April 7, 2015, 8:44 pm
  7. So glad you found me and followed me (back at WordPress, where I was 2009-2010 before returning to Blogger only to return here…sigh). Even more glad to come here and find a recent post! I’ve added you to my links on dolcebellezza.net and look forward to carrying on together as we did, talking about books and life when we can.

    I really liked David Nicholls’ book, even though it did make me sad. Part of what was wonderful to me was the way he portrayed the son in this book. I felt like I wasn’t the only one with an alien child during those tough years. The dialogue and description of his boy was fabulous and spot on, I thought.

    Posted by Bellezza | April 10, 2015, 2:02 am
    • Hi Bellezza! I think I was happier here. Losing touch of reading and the blogging community has create a void and unfulfilment. I am a loyal fan of wordpress and can’t get used to Blogger at all. I feel more sad over the fact that Douglas wife, Connie decided to leave him just when their son is about to strike out on his own. More More sad that Connie seems to find her own true love and that the years spent together was a “parenthesis”…..

      I have two boys, the eldest will be a teenager in 3 years. Despite being in their single digit years, they have always been more mature than other children, so at times I feel like I am dealing with two teenage boys at home. The years ahead will be tough, let’s hope like your son, they come out ok at the end. I look forward to reading your reviews now that I have subscribed to your blog post!

      Posted by JoV | April 10, 2015, 11:21 am
  8. Glad to know you’re back. Looking forward to reading more from you. =)

    Posted by Michelle | April 10, 2015, 11:53 am
  9. Glad I ‘rediscovered’ your blog… from rereading the comments in my ‘Lust, Caution’ review post from several years ago. First off, congrats on six years of blogging! Thanks for this current review on Us. It’s sad indeed, for two people to find out late they shouldn’t have been together. As for the books you’ve read last year, I’d love to read your reviews. Keep in touch!

    Posted by Arti | April 17, 2015, 1:22 pm
    • Thanks very much Arti. I don’t read as much as I used to due to workload and cleaning and sometimes just not sure if there is a day I can enjoy a luxury of sitting down with a good book but it amazing to still keep in touch and have you visiting my blog sometimes. Thank you so much!

      Posted by JoV | April 20, 2015, 1:37 pm
  10. You’re back, yay! We missed you here 🙂
    Oh yes, the new wordpress style, my blogging has been pretty meh, so I was quite confused, too! Aww, a clean house is great, but a little reading and blogging is so good for a bookworm’s soul, I really missed it.
    I’ve come to like the kindle as well, though I’m now starting to get into audiboooks (cause my commute is the bus and I get car sick) and I can also “read” and clean that way.
    Hope you enjoyed I Capture the Castle and The Goldfinch, would love to hear your thoughts on them.
    I have to admit I haven’t read any Nicholls, not even One day…but US sounds wonderful, even if it seems to be a sad story. I love the phrasing ” contained within parentheses”!

    Posted by Bina | April 22, 2015, 11:59 am
    • Hey Bina, thanks for dropping by! For some reason I don’t quite ready to “hear” a book. I think I am impatient and more inclined to read than hear them. But it is great to hear that you have taken up Audio books! Keep in touch. 🙂

      Posted by JoV | April 28, 2015, 8:12 am
  11. JOV, always great to hear from you. Like you, I have been away from writing reviews. But I have been reading. Like you, the Kindle has become indispensable. I use while having lunch at office!

    Posted by soulmuser | May 4, 2015, 5:03 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


JoV's favorite books »
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old-books

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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