The basics: Beginning with one shared night in 1998, One Day follows Dex and Emma for twenty years. On June 15 each year, we peek in on their lives and see where they are.
My thoughts: I sat down to read the first chapter of One Day before bed. Instead, I read the first 40% of it, saying, "just one more year" at the end of each chapter. When I woke up, I finished it. This book consumed me for the 18 hours I spent with it (seven of those were sleeping). Something about Dex and Emma transfixed me. They graduated from college fourteen years before I did, but their experiences felt like mine. I saw so much of my 22-year-old self (or rather the apartment I had at that age):
"She had that arty girl's passion for photomontage too; flash-lit snaps of college friends and family jumbled in amongst the Chagalls and Vermeers and Kandinskys, the Che Guevaras and Woody Allens and Samuel Becketts. Nothing here was neutral, everything displayed an allegiance or a point of view. The room was a manifesto, and with a sigh Dexter recognised her as one of those girls who used 'bourgeois' as a term of abuse."Granted I favored Miro and Matisse to Vermeer, but I loved Chagall and Kandisnky. I took Linklater and Kevin Smith over Woody Allen, but otherwise, it was spot on me. And so many defiant liberals I know. Yet the quotation continues on to speak to the now 30-year-old me:
"He could understand why 'fascist' might have negative connotations, but he liked the word 'bourgeois' and all that it implied. Security, travel, nice food, good manners, ambition; what was he meant to be apologising for?"Nicholls did a lovely job of acutely observing the little truths of life:
"She doesn't want an amusing story, she wants change, a break, not anecdotes. Her life has been stuffed with anecdotes, an endless string of the bastards, now she wants something to go right for once. She wants success, or at least the hope of it ."It is perhaps the perfect book for me at this age in my life. I'm close enough to the early twenties to remember (and laugh at myself), but I'm still earnest enough to appreciate the truth:
"All that yearning and anguish and passion had been replaced by a steady pulse of pleasure and satisfaction and occasional irritation, and this seemed to be a happy exchange; if there had been moments in her life when she had been more elated, there had never been a time when things had been more constant."What is it about British male writers that can capture the pop culture experience of youth, make me laugh out loud and be just literary enough to make me take fervent notes? In many ways, the experience of reading this book reminded me of my first experiences with Nick Hornby: High Fidelity and Fever Pitch. If I were given this novel blind, I might have guessed it was a forgotten Nick Hornby novel from the early 2000's. It may not be a novel for everyone, but I utterly adored, immediately bought a copy for one friend and recommended it to quite a few more with eager Facebook messages saying, "Read One Day by David Nicholls. Now. You'll thank me later. The end."
The film version will be out in July, and I think it will translate beautifully. Anne Hathaway was Emma in my head. David Nicholls wrote the screenplay. The best news of all: Lone Scherfig is directing. Lone just happened to direct my all-time favorite movie, An Education, which should have earned Carey Mulligan an Oscar last year, but I digress.
Favorite passage: "She had reached a turning point. She no longer believed that a situation could be made better by writing a poem about it."
The verdict: One Day is my favorite book of 2011 (so far), and I've enjoyed everything I've read this year. There's something quite magical about these characters for me. Nicholls straddles the lines of literary and popular fiction beautifully to create a funny, poignant and utterly lovely novel.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 448 pages
Publication date: It's in paperback now (and only $5 for the Kindle edition.)
Source: I bought it for my Kindle.
Have you read either of the other novels by David Nicholls? Would I enjoy them just as much?
As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!