Don’t judge me for the next paragraph because it’s me laying my reading soul bare for you and ridicule would vex me, ha! There are some books I read that whilst not putting me into a life changing state, I find I have to give a hug because they sort of touch me in some way, or just make reading a pure unadulterated pleasure. ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls is one such book. It didn’t leave me in such awe I couldn’t breathe (though it did make me cry) but I when I finished it I wished I still had pages and pages to go. Maybe we should look at this in more detail?
The title of David Nicholls third novel ‘One Day’ is rather brilliant as in part it sort of sums up the plot in which we meet two people on the same day over twenty years, and it sums up the slightly nostalgic feel to the book of ‘oh, maybe one day…’ I am pretty sure we have all experienced that feeling at some point (if not several) in our lives; which of course is a master stroke because if you can empathise with a book naturally you are much more drawn into it, just as I was in this case. But let’s look at the plot a little more before I go off on a tangent about me.
As the book opens in on St Swithun’s Day (July 15th) in 1988 we meet Dexter and Emma who have just spent a drunken night together at the end of their university studies in Edinburgh. It’s that awkward morning after, and one Dexter is rather prone to, however in this instance for some reason they decide to keep in touch both with that feeling that this could be something special, but neither really having the guts to say so, or being made a fool off in case of getting rebuffed. Over the next twenty years we meet these two people wherever they might be and follow their lives which interlink and separate with a slight feeling of inevitability but nothing, as we learn, ever goes the way you think it might. I don’t want to say anymore as I wouldn’t want to spoil what a treat the reader has in store, I will say that Nicholls pulls the rug from under you several times so just when you think ‘aha, I see where this is going’ you’re proven wrong.
Really the book is about Dexter and Emma and their journeys from early twenties until their forties and the almost present day. The cast of additional characters that come in and out of their lives are well drawn and real but because of the nature of the book they never become big characters. Dexter becomes a celebrity bringing out ever more the arrogance that he has from the start whilst Emma dreams of being a writer whilst serving food from hell in a horrid restaurant chain. Again I won’t say how things progress for fear of plot spoiling. I mentioned Dexter is arrogant, yet he’s not a complete twit, in fact both our lead characters have flaws which would normally make you think ‘eurgh’ but with Nicholls writing makes them all the more real, we know people like them and in some instances we have even been people like them.
I didn’t think hopping from year to year would work. I didn’t think I would bond with our leading duo or be able to follow the stories from the previous year. Once again I was wrong on both counts as Nicholls manages to convincingly, without it ever feeling forced, drop small hints as to what has happened since – even when Dexter and Emma don’t speak for several years but meet mutual friends – so really you feel you live the whole story with them. In fact it’s like those friends you catch up with year to year but it’s like you only saw them last week and by the end these two fictional characters do weirdly feel like your mates.
I am well aware that this book won’t be for everyone but anyone who is looking at it and thinking ‘chick-lit by a man with no literary merit’ (and I have heard that said) would be wrong. The prose is incredibly readable without being throw-away. I laughed and cried whilst reading this book in one sitting, it was rather like spending a day on an emotional rollercoaster I have to say and yet once I had put it down I really just wanted to start all over again and I don’t say that too often. It’s not a modern masterpiece but I hope it becomes a contemporary classic.
A book that will: leave you an emotional wreck, make you want to hug it and also start all over again all at once possibly. 9/10
Have you read this and if so what did you think? I know it has had some real Marmite reviews of both loving and loathing but I was so pleasantly surprised! Has anyone read anything else by David Nicholls, I am hoping they are all this brilliant? I have had to put my thinking cap on for some perfect prose partners for this, any suggestions from any of you?