In the middle of the night Douglas Petersen, a mild-mannered middle-aged biochemist, is woken by Connie, his wife of more than twenty years. He thinks at first she fears she’s heard a burglar, but it’s much worse than that – she announces that she thinks she wants to leave him, that their marriage has ‘run it’s course’. Despite this rather alarming turn of events, they decide to go ahead with the ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe that they had planned with their 17 year old son Albie. Douglas sees it as an opportunity to win back his wife’s love, and forge a closer bond with his recalcitrant son. What could possibly go wrong?
Douglas is a charming and engaging narrator, with a dry, self-deprecating wit that is oh-so-English. As he recounts the family’s travels, he also reminisces about meeting Connie, their life together, their family memories, everything leading up to their current predicament.
The book is beautifully and intelligently written, with humour, pathos, romance, drama, travel – what more could you want in a novel? But I think David Nicholls’ special gift is in creating characters that are utterly believable – even minor characters are fully rounded and real. I loved this book, and feel it was absolutely deserving of it’s place on the Man Booker longlist this year. Trade paperback $30