At an ungodly hour one morning, Connie tells Douglas the thought of the two of them alone in the house together without their son Albie is “like a Beckett play”. Douglas hasn’t seen any Beckett plays, but senses this is not a good thing.
The pair have been married for 21 years and have planned one last family trip to Europe before Albie leaves to study photography, but Connie’s decision to leave Douglas once the trip is done turns their holiday into an increasingly desperate one.
Nicholls’ previous novel was the 2009 phenomenon One Day, which sold five million copies. Us taps into that same sad/funny vein, though this time there’s a sole narrator, the strait-laced Douglas, an earnest scientist who views dinner parties as “a pitiless form of gladiatorial combat”. When he is corralled into one such event, however, he falls for Connie. She’s completely different from him – cultured, vivacious and charmingly free-spirited, though sometimes intolerant of anyone not charmingly free-spirited in the exact same way she is.