I have to admit, I probably shouldn't have read this book so soon after The Vacationers. There are a lot of similarities—each could be subtitled “Privileged White Family Goes on European Vacation to Try to Salvage Their Teetering Relationships”—and the two stories are conflating in my head even as I type.
Thus it may be helpful (for me, at least) to focus not so much on the family vacation part of Us as the family itself and how it threatens to disintegrate. Narrator Douglas is a husband and father, but in his family of three he is always the one left out. His wife Connie and son Albie (yes, they're British, how could you tell?) are both artsy types who make fun of Douglas's maps and itineraries. What's interesting about this is trying to sort out, as a reader with only Douglas's perspective to go on, where exactly the fault lies for all this tension. Is Douglas's rigidity pushing his family away? Or are Connie and Albie unfair to insist on spontaneity just for its own sake?
Of course the family's issues run deeper than just bickering over what museum to queue for first. Interwoven through the story of their European tour are flashbacks to when Douglas and Connie first met and fell in love. Through his memories, Douglas shows both how deeply he and his wife cared for each other and how incompatible they were even at the beginning. Douglas is unswervingly committed to saving his marriage and keeping his family together, but the odds are certainly stacked against him.
What I most enjoyed about Us was its zany humor. Nicholls excels at creating scenes in which Douglas's mild social awkwardness gradually balloons to hilarious proportions. His description of the dinner party at which Douglas and Connie meet for the first time is pitch-perfect in pacing and selection of detail. And its placement right at the beginning of the novel is well-chosen, as it firmly sets both the tone and Douglas's overly earnest nature in the reader's mind.
This would be a good book for fans of family dramas who like a good helping of wacky on the side.