One Day by David Nicholls; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: One Day

Author: David Nicholls

(First) Published: August 28th, 2009

Number of Pages: 448

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself. [From Goodreads]

Quote:

And it was at moments like this that she had to remind herself that she was in love with him, or had once been in love with him, a long time ago.

Review:

I wasn’t aware that One Day existed until I saw the movie preview. No, that’s a lie. It wasn’t until my dad was driving me somewhere and said something like, “There’s a new When Harry Met Sally with Anne Hathaway in it” that my attention was caught.

I am so pleased that I read the book before seeing the movie. It’s better by leaps and bounds, and my familiarity with the story made the movie better because I already knew these people – Dex and Em, Em and Dex. I felt that the movie failed to portray their characters well enough, specifically Emma’s development. This book relies heavily on the relationship, but the relationship relies so much upon their individual journeys, and I think the movie missed that memo.

One Day is hilarious. Its comedic tone is pretty sarcastic and can be kind of jarring at times, but it’s so much fun! I loved that Nicholls made their actions into subtle jokes that can be interpreted in whatever way the reader likes, and these jokes became more and more fun as I got to know Em and Dex better. I felt like some kind of insider, sharing all these personal jokes, feeling so familiar with these people and the way they are.

Unfortunately, I always felt closer to Dexter. I was surprised how endearing he could be while making the dumbest and lamest decisions imaginable. Really, he’s kind of a loser… but he’s my loser, you know? His childish, self-destructive, and admittedly selfish ways are simply a means to an end. I’m sure there was an easier way to get there, but after a few drinks and some illicit drugs, it’s difficult to see clearly. I was so anxious for him to pull his life together because, despite all the mistakes and the terrible consequences, he had so much potential to be incredible.

Emma is funny, witty, and a writer. I’ll admit that her interest in writing drew me to her. However, she often seemed bitter and cynical. Those faults, though, are certainly less detrimental than Dexter’s. I suppose the reason I didn’t feel as tender toward her was that she seemed less vulnerable and more distant. I simply didn’t feel the same excitement when “spending time with her” that I did when I was with Dexter.

The format that Nicholls has chosen – resuming the story on July 15th from 1988 to 2008 – was something I’d never seen before, and I loved it! I never knew what to expect from one year to the next. So much can change. So much did change. The years aren’t focused on equally, some chapters being shorter than others, but I never felt like I was missing anything. Nicholls did a stellar job of weaving the events and changes that occurred in the past year into the new chapter in order to keep the reader from feeling lost or left behind.

Nicholls also alternates between Dexter’s and Emma’s points-of-view. This is one of the few multi-POV books I’ve read that had voices that were easily distinguishable. I knew within the first two paragraphs who was narrating.
As the story and characters developed, I loved it more and more. Sure, there were a few particular events that made me sick to my stomach or deeply disapproving, but most of the time I was so invested in their lives I didn’t care. There came one point near the end, this sort of cataclysmic event, at which I was really irritated. The author seemed to throw in one of the most terribly cliché and “Hallmark-y” events imaginable, undoubtedly hoping for a deep emotional response. Instead, I was hardly affected. I was too caught up in how disappointing it was! To make matters worse, the event didn’t really lead to further character development, and I still don’t think its presence is really justified. Sure, sometimes events are random and serve no purpose in life, but this was too contrived to be excused.

Anyway… it did result in one of my favorite scenes, and that was heartbreaking. Jim Sturgess does such a fantastic job in the movie that I couldn’t help tearing up. I suppose I’ll just have to live with the hallmark-i-ness.

Ultimately, One Day is a comedic, blunt, and affecting novel that illustrates two people’s lives and the intricate way they’re weaved together in such an acute way that it’s difficult not to be hooked. Though it fell prey to some disappointing elements, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something that captures both the most uplifting and degrading moments in two people’s lives. One Day is the story of how Emma Morely and Dexter Mayhew became Em and Dex.

P.S. Don’t forget to enter to win a signed copy of Paranormalcy!

4 Commentsto “One Day by David Nicholls; Review”

  1. Great review! I also am a big Dexter fan. 🙂

  2. Dexter endearing? I know I'm only a mere man, but I completely fail to see how there is anything likeable about the guy, he's more than a bit of twit who makes bad decision, worse even than someone who behaves badly as a young man, but matures into a wiser, better person. He's an alcoholic, self-centred, boring, bloke who consistently hurts everyone around him and doesn't even grow up and take responsibility when he has a baby. Oh, and there's absolutely no reason for him to behave so bady, he isn't abused, bullied, rejected in anyway. But other than that, I liked it…

    Sorry, did I go on a bit of a rant there?

    My review: One Day by David Nicholls

  3. Fair point, I'm seeing a lot of differing opinions. Did you really feel Dexter matured into a likeable person then, or just a slightly better person than he was previously?

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