Saturday, 21 July 2012

Review: One Day by David Nicholls

This book kept catching my eye in the charity shop but I put off buying it for ages, thinking it would be your usual sappy fairytale romance. Eventually I caved and I'm very glad I did. One Day was not at all what I'd expected. Rather than a warm, fuzzy love story, this is all about missed opportunities, loneliness, and the unfortunate habit life has of getting in the way of all our plans. 

The story begins with Emma and Dexter laying in bed the morning after their graduation in 1988. They've spent the night together, and will soon be leaving Edinburgh to return to their respective families and do not expect to see each other again. Despite this, they are brightly optimistic about what the future has in store for them.

Each chapter sees what Em and Dex are up to on the anniversaries of their first night together, spanning the next twenty years and revealing the ways in which their lives live up to and defy the expectations they had in their early twenties.

After leaving university, Dex and Em remain close friends, calling and writing to each other and meeting up as often as they can, despite their very different lifestyles. Em finds herself stuck in a depressing and low-paying job in a restaurant chain, whilst Dex moves up his career ladder in the media and becomes a successful TV presenter. As Dex embraces the celebrity lifestyle, he and Em drift apart as he prefers to spend time with his shallow, fashionable friends and feels that Em is no longer worthy of him. However, as his luck runs out, he realises that she is his only true friend, and that he needs her more than ever. 

Despite Dex's selfish behaviour towards Em, it is clear from the start that they will eventually get together. But this is not your typical happily-ever-after story, and life throws a lot of obstacles in their way, leaving the reader wondering what else could possibly go wrong. The changing backdrop of life from the eighties to the new millennium provides a lot of humour and poignancy as a social commentary on life in Britain and the changing fads and lifestyles, from the introduction of mobile phones (and everybody eventually caving in after swearing they would never buy one!) to the rising popularity of posh organic sandwiches.

I found myself becoming attached to both Em and Dex, who were extremely well-written, believable characters. Despite their flaws, they are both very sympathetic, and their banter (oh how I hate that word!) is so hilarious and sweet that it is clear from the start that they belong together. I also enjoyed the minor characters, such as Ian the failed comedian and the recurring appearances of Em and Dex's friends from university, and the way they changed as they grew older.

As usual after reading a good book, I kind of want to see the film adaptation, but I also kind of don't, because I'm scared it will be disappointing compared to the source material, and that they will probably have turned the film into a slushy sad romance a-la The Notebook and taken out all the other sides to the story. So I think I'll leave it for now, and simply recommend this brilliant book for its combination of humour, romance, tragedy and social commentary, all rolled up into one very enjoyable read. 

Now I'm off to go and make the most of my next twenty years and appreciate what I have before life cruelly ruins everything! 

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