Reviewer: JJ Marsh
What we thought: Like much of Nicholls’ previous work, this is a gentle, carefully observed bittersweet romcom with surprising depth. Douglas Petersen recounts the story of how he met Connie, his wife, their love affair and the early years of their marriage. This is interwoven with his current situation twenty-five years on, when Connie is thinking of leaving him.
The family, Douglas, Connie and their 17-year-old son Albie, had planned to spend their summer holiday travelling Europe, doing The Grand Tour. Despite the precarious state of their relationship, Connie insists they should go ahead with their plans, stating that just as the trip made a man of all those 18th century adventurers, it will have the same effect on their son. The trip does indeed make a man of both him and his father.
Douglas is tightly buttoned, understated and very cautious. He believes that with careful organisation and the right mindset, he will be able to save his marriage and improve the father and son dynamic. Circumstances and his own attitudes, however, conspire against him, and he finds himself behaving most out of character. He learns to let go and in doing so, discovers who he really is.
Read with skilful nuances and a light touch by Justin Salinger, the book is laugh-aloud funny in places. These alternate with typically Nicholls touching, thoughtful and recognisable moments which occur in every relationship. As with One Day, he sidesteps the Hollywood resolution and provides surprises right till the end.
A perceptive and wonderfully observed novel to leave you thinking.
Favourite line: "As long as there is breath in my body, she will never lack for AA batteries."
You’ll enjoy this if you liked: One Day, The 7.39, Love Actually, A Spot of Bother
Avoid if you don’t like: Family tensions, European cities, parallel timelines
Ideal accompaniments: A baguette with ham & cheese, a bottle of Amstel and Björk’s Human Behaviour.
Available from Amazon