Us by David Nicholls
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Falling in love is a beautiful thing, more so when the love comes surreptitiously at your door which had opened many a times in past to find only empty autumns of loneliness and futile rains of solitude. Into such a heart, when love steps in, the heart does not remain the same, ever. Finding your reflection in another being becomes a hypnotic revelation,empowering you at once, to ironically, surrender your many identities to live in the nurturing shadow of your beloved. You accept sans hesitation, you relinquish without regret, you pursue without fatigue and you transform without ado. And when this spring continues to brighten your heart for seasons together, you lose track of the weather outside. You care no longer to check the forecast of the world beyond yourself, which still bears the unpredictability of floating emotional clouds. Being in love feels almost like a trance that you hope would never run out of steam.
But what if it does?
A reticent 30-year old research scientist, Douglas Petersen, meets a vivacious 28-year old artist, Connie Moore. Buoyed and drained by different drugs in life, they find a common drug that leaves them high for the next 24 years: love.
‘…if only because the truly happy days tend not to involve so much organization, are rarely so public. The happy ones sneak up, unexpected.”
During this long springy hangover in London, they gain and lose much. Besides togetherness and loyalty, they gain a handsome, albeit recalcitrant son, Albie. He abates the loss of their beautiful daughter, Jane, to some extent. But when it is time for the 17-year old Albie to attend university, the family decides to undertake a Grand Europe Tour as a farewell gift to Albie. Corrosively for Douglas, it also doubles up as his final bid to win Connie back who, days before the commencement of the tour, shares her long-tended contemplation of pursuing a separate, individual life after Albie’s departure.
‘There’s a saying, cited in popular song, that if you love someone you must set them free. Well, that’s just nonsense. If you love someone, you bind them to you with heavy metal chains.’
And so begins a journey of epic proportions whose geographical vastness could only be countered by the stretch of emotional emptiness that Douglas had suddenly begun feeling like a lump in the rib. In the artistic corridors of Paris, on the cycling escapades of Munich, amidst the boisterous camaraderie of Amsterdam, over the splendorous rides of Venice and in the infectious effervescence of Madrid, he attempts to envelop his son in the friendship blanket by one hand while not losing grip on the love shield hoisted over his wife by the other. But are the attempts too little, too late?
‘The heat and humidity were Amazonian and rubbing the skin on my perspiring forehead produced a grey scurf like the debris from a pencil eraser, the accumulated grime of seven nations.’
Is it possible to truly bask in an air of nostalgia if it does not leave the reassuring perfume of a loving present behind? How praiseworthy is a love that whisks away all our dreams because they find fulfillment in its refuge? Is wagering dreams for peace an act of cowardice? Should we pat our back if we receive eternal friendship in lieu of transient love? Who scores in the battle of unexpressed care and expressed scorn? Does communication, simply by its virtue of flowing, negate all its ill-effects? Nicholls swirls bubbles of profound thoughts towards us, which laced with witty humor, act as a mirror of life that laughs at us during our most sombre times; almost snatching control from our lives, like a perennial elder, whose children have suddenly developed the ephemeral hallucination of being their own bosses.
But again, like an elder, it senses our flights and falls and without fail, opens another window of our heart. What comes in, of course, is a criss-cross of reflected and refracted rays which, although radiantly complicated, alleviate the darkness and give us a season, yet again, to see and live in a new light.
[Image courtesy http://www.hdwallpapers.cat ]