book review: Us – David Nicholls

Cast your mind back to the summer of 2009 and choose any tube journey you might have taken. Remember the orange paperback EVERYONE had his/her nose in?

There’s no doubt that David Nicholls’ One Day was an enormous hit: the story of Dexter and Emma, the star-crossed lovers, the PUNCH where it hurt and then out rolled the film (2 years later) with Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.

But such success can only bring on serious writer’s block. You can almost feel the pressure Nicholls was under.

And finally he’s done it. Us is the story of a middle aged couple whose marriage is struggling. Biochemist Douglas and his beloved artist, free-spirited Connie set off with their 17-year-old son Alfie for one last family holiday that will either make or break their marriage. As the reader, you journey with them (through life as well as through Europe) taking on board their very valid issues with each other.   Probably because their grievances are so real, poignant and perceptive – the story is believable and therefore gripping.

Us by David Nicholls

However, the novel has been criticized as a non-event after One Day, pointing out that Nicholls has apparently held back any real excitement suggesting that he is desperate not to offend his readers but … I’m afraid I disagree. Not only is this a better tale but it is also full of immediately quotable one-liners: I’ve always wondered who those freaks are who don’t read novels and Well I can tell you now that married life is not a plateau, not at all. 

I’d even go as far as saying that I love the way Nicholls has told Douglas’ story; with such simplicity and yet with details which make it perfectly astute.  Cringing at his awkwardness and dull conventionalism combined with the banality of his marriage, I found I couldn’t put it down (much to the Smalls’ irritation) drawn to the honesty of this family’s dynamic.

Look out for it (once in paperback) coming to a tube ride near you…

Us by David Nicholls

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Men, Women & Children, London premiere

Last night Leicester Square was teaming with screaming teens as Ansel Elgort took selfies with fans lining the red carpet at the Men, Women & Children premiere.

The Chad Kultgen’s novel, directed by Jason Reitman, saw this year’s BFI Film Festival’s second night.   And of course red carpet means only one thing in this city… pouring rain. But once side, the excited cinema folk greeted Jason and his young leads, Elgort and Kaitlyn Dever up on the stage and then I was ready to kick off my heels and face the horrors of my social media/smart phone addition.

director Jason Reitman

But actually I wasn’t comfortable AT ALL. This comedy-drama was disturbing on so many levels. Clearly addressing the issues of troubled teenagers wired by the virtual tech world, I was struck by the anxiety all parents must face as their offspring come of age, mostly ungracefully. I didn’t really find much to laugh at here.

an amusing moment on stage between Ansel Elgort and Kaitlyn Dever

Of course, the parents (played by Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer and Jennifer Garner) are more clueless than most in order to illustrate these tales of caution. But, excessive phone and internet use in place of ‘real conversation’ is a nagging worry in most of our lives and, while the film does convey this, I did struggle with the barrage of text/game/facebook messages, both on a thought-provoking level as well as in actual words.

teens in real life chat

a scene from the film where teens actually have a REAL life chat

Marriages just one-click away from an escort or an affair, teenagers seeking approval, arousal or anorexia and over-protecting of children from the possible perils of the online world are all too plausible pitfalls but does this make for entertaining viewing?

Contemporary? YES.

Relevant? YES.

Informative? YES.

But did I really enjoy the film? Was I blown away by the script and subject matter? No. To be honest I might have felt more comfortable out in the rain…



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Beckham & GOAT

Beckham Emporium on Dover Street

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ll know that Queen Victoria Beckham has recently opened her flagship store on Dover Street, Mayfair. I was dying to take some illegal shots of the emporium but also wanted to combine the trip with another long awaited shop project, GOAT’s first shop on Conduit Street.

Yesterday, post a George Northwood flying visit (Lotte (video clip here), his junior stylist, was my snipper this time and would TOTALLY recommend her!), I headed across the west end to admire shop fits rather than make any purchases.

GOAT Conduit Street

Worn by a particularly discerning (mostly fashionista) clientele, GOAT has made its name as the understated cashmere brand. Even Mrs Beckham herself has been seen in their signature knits.

signature knits at GOAT shop

The boutique is neutral to say the least.   Some might even suggest a blank canvas but the clothing still manages to scream luxury, quality and simple, chic style.

GOAT conduit street

The 6,000 sq ft of Beckham-ness is nothing less than breathtaking.

Beckham flagship store on Dover St

The mirrored walls, concrete staircase, angular images and suspended clothes from chains on the ceiling are the work of architect Farshid Moussavi and the detail perfectionist herself.Beckham flagship store on Dover St

complete with Damien Hirst art

complete with Damien Hirst art

With no mannequins, no tills and not even a door to open, this work of (retail) art feels more like a gallery than somewhere I might try anything on.

GOAT 4 Conduit St. W1

Victoria Beckham 36 Dover St. W1

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Yesterday was a day of secrets. Undercover, I slipped into a perfectly sunny Soho looking for some hush-hush Spring/Summer ’15 style gems at Lamb to Slaughter’s press day.

London's soho in autumn

Held at the private Union members club on Greek Street, Donna Lambert and her PR team were showcasing their clients’ wares in this 270 year old, listed Georgian town house.

DKODE Footwear

DKODE Footwear

Forbes & Lewis bags and luggage

Forbes & Lewis bags and luggage

and Mint's high quality vintage

and Mint’s high quality vintage

I had arranged to meet my most fun @stylonylon there before we planned to run off into the streets of Soho to do what we love most…. snap, snap, snap….

Stylonylon on the run

Stylonylon on the run

Soho’s Secret Tea Room (hidden up the stairs behind the bar) at the Coach & Horses pub probably isn’t as obscure as it sounds, but tempted us in all the same. Giggling, gossiping and swapping many a secret, we managed to munch our way through a silly amount of finger sandwiches (that’s right; no crusts), scones with jam and clotted cream and those ever-pouring tea pots.

Soho's Secret Tea Room


Soho's Secret Tea Rooms

soho's secret tea rooms

And clearly seeking more covert territory, I headed out last night to meet Him and some undisclosed friends at a ridiculously private hangout for dinner.

two bridges place

two brydges place

Down this mysterious alley called Two Brydges Place, off St Martin’s Lane, I learnt of cloaks and daggers and so much more…


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