My first ever book review on the blog! I absolutely loved reading ‘One Day’ a few years ago and was really looking forward to reading more by David Nicholls. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014, this book lived up to my expectations – well written and funny, it draws you in and keeps you avidly reading right until the last page.
The book centres around Douglas, Connie and their son Albie – The Peterson family. Told from the point of view of Douglas, a fifty four year old scientist, the story follows the family on the last Summer before Albie leaves for University. Dropping the bombshell that she thinks their marriage has run it’s course, Connie’s revelation strikes right from the first page and you are left with an instant impression of the relationship between the couple. Whilst Douglas is a ‘facts man’, an academic whose life has been ruled by science, Connie is an artist, a free spirit whose driven by her spontaneous nature. Their marriage has been a balancing act between the two different temperaments and Nicholls threads humour continually throughout the story.
They decide to take their already planned holiday dubbed ‘The Grand Tour’ and spend a few weeks travelling through different European countries. The book flips between the past and the present and the descriptions of the current holiday are interspersed with nostalgic tales of their first meeting, their families, their wedding and the rest of their backstory. You end up rooting for Douglas the whole way through, willing him onward to initially win Connie’s affections on their first awkward meeting to winning her over once again on the holiday.
Douglas’ likeable often bumbling demeanour often sees him out of step with the other two members of his family and although he means well, he often gets things wrong which causes friction between him and his teenage son. The book also covers their often strained relationship and the lengths Douglas goes to, to try and gain the respect of his son.
Connie and Douglas have been through so much together and the book touches on the loss of their first child Jane. This goes a long way to explaining how they both act they way they do and gives their relationship further depth. It also plays a part in how they treat Albie and the pressure he feels on living up to an ideal.
I think one of the best parts of this book is that you can relate to all three of the characters and see their point of view and what makes them act the way they do. So whatever situation is described, you are almost there with them, feeling how they do. We’ve all been or known an Albie – the teenager fed up of living with his parents and their rules and desperate to make the move to University and can see why he acts the way he does. Yet you also end up emphasising with Connie and Douglas in different ways and can see the reasons why they act how they do.
I really enjoyed reading this book and found myself unable to put it down as I reached the end, wanting to know what happens. I was worried that the ending would be too ‘perfect’ and unrealistic with Connie and Douglas living ‘happily ever after’ but without giving too much away, Nicholls ends the novel very well and it could almost be an alternative ‘perfect’ ending although not the conventional one. Loved this book.