“This is where it all begins. Everything starts here, today.
One Day, David Nicholls.
First of all, I feel it incumbent upon me to confess that I finished this book a few days ago and have not found the time to write my review until now; however, something rather strange has happened in the days following my finishing the book. Whilst reading One Day I was totally and completely hooked, unable to put it down – it was a definite hit. Upon reflection over the last few days, however, my love and enthusiasm for this book has undergone something of a transformation and I find myself, to my dismay, rather angry with the book and its characters.
The story follows two protagonists: Emma and Dexter, we are first introduced to them on 15th July 1988 – the day following their graduation – and consequently on every July 15th for the next twenty years. Nicholls only allows us these annual glimpses of where the characters are and I have to say, it’s a brilliant literary device. By only allowing us to view Emma and Dexter once a year, Nicholls is able to avoid getting bogged down in the minutiae of their everyday lives and, instead, the reader is able to focus on where their relationship is, what they want from their lives and how they alter as people.
As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed reading One Day and found it to be a very rewarding and engaging story…but what about the aforementioned anger? I hear you say. Well. I don’t think my anger at One Day is particularly rational or, indeed, coherent, so forgive me if I sound a little crazy. The story is very much concerned with the experiences of coming-of-age in 90s Britain and the challenges faced by both men and women during their formative years. Nicholls is clearly a talented writer with great insight into his topic, so it’s not the writing or the subject which I have an issue with. I think…I think it is the characters. The more I reflect on One Day the more I become convinced that I don’t like either Emma or Dexter, that they’re not very nice people and that they make blindingly bad decisions and….(rant reaches its climax)…waste their very promising lives.
The more I consider Emma and Dexter the more infuriated and angry I become. Even while reading, I was pretty convinced that Dexter was a bit of a twerp, but Emma…I so desperately wanted to like her and relate to her, that I think I allowed myself to be blind to some gaping flaws in her character. With hindsight though, I am not altogether sure Emma is a particularly nice or inspiring heroine either. She’s so confident when it comes to so many things, and yet she wastes years of her life in a dead-end job, trollops around with her boss and spends her life waiting for idiot-Dexter to realise he loves her – thus sacrificing her chance of ever having a child (a chance which the unworthy Dexter is granted and makes a right royal cock-up of). This is surely how to spend your twenties if you want to mess up the rest of your life. And maybe that’s what worries me…I am, after-all, mid-twenties and the idea of my life going down the pan like theirs is more than a little terrifying. Perhaps I am reassuring myself that this could never happen to me by convincing myself that Emma and Dexter are stupid and reckless. Who knows.
I won’t spoil the story’s ending, but suffice to say that I think there’s a pretty sizable warning in there for the current mid-twenties generation, like me. This is not the way to live the beginning of your life if you want something left to cherish at the end. Don‘t lose sight of your priorities, don’t drag your feet and, above all, don’t waste the days you’re given. One Day also raises some pretty hefty questions about love….What is worth waiting for?…What are you hiding from yourself?…When should you give up?…Is this love healthy?…Where will this love take you?…What is it costing you?…And will it last? Makes Mastermind look easy, doesn’t it?
I would recommend One Day, it’s well written, well paced, and well deserving of the praise it has received. After all, I’d sooner read a book that I couldn’t put down even though it left me fuming than plod through a book that bored me to tears.
Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf.
What to read next? Back to one of my favourite authors this time, Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf.