Read IN BED: Us

Words & Images by Hannah-Rose Yee

“Sunday morning had a melancholy air, like the last day of a wonderful holiday, and we stepped out to the corner shop for newspapers and bacon, then sought refuge in her bed. Of course it wasn’t all sex, sex, sex though largely it was. There was conversation too, and Connie played me her favourite records, and she slept a great deal, at seemingly random times of day and night, and in those hours I would extricate myself from the mess of blankets, bedspreads and quilts, and explore. The bedroom was murky and under-lit, the skirting boards concealed behind hundreds of books: volumes of fine art, vintage Rupert annuals, classic novels and reference works. Her clothes hung on a bare rail – no wardrobe – an arrangement that struck me as almost unspeakably cool, and I secretly longed to work my way through the rail, insisting that she try things on.” – David Nicholls, Us

Don’t be surprised if you’re not the only one reading this on the train to work in the morning. I feel like this is going to be the buzzy read of the year – if only because it’s by the author of One Day and it’s longlisted for the man booker (and those are both very good reasons, are they not?) – and it’s got the cover to match. It’s about a husband, a good, kind, slightly vanilla husband, whose artist wife and photographer son are drifting away from him. He tries to win them both back on a grand tour holiday of Europe after his son finishes school. You can imagine how that plan goes.

I liked reading this book. I like David Nicholls’ humour – Starter for 10, his first book, is one of my comfort-read favourites (and the movie with James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch is great) – and I like his style. It’s conversational and easy to read. I did like this book. I wasn’t satisfied with it, in terms of where the story went and how some of the characters behaved; I just don’t accept it when characters behave in ways that I wouldn’t. But what I liked immensely was the flashbacks, recreating the early days of Douglas and Connie first meeting in the 80s and the blossoming romance between a genetic scientist and a melodramatic art student. If the book was comprised just of flashbacks I would have been very happy, but then, there wouldn’t have been a story, would there?