I feel as if I should be defending “one day”. The lazy among us would dismiss this novel as “chick-lit”, something for women over 40; a book that appeals to their sense of romanticism and titillates them like nothing else can, perhaps.
An admission is that “one day” is indeed a romantic novel; it’s almost a rom-com – a novel waiting for Richard Curtis to become available. But all of that does no justice to David Nicholls’ work. Calling ‘One Day’ a book for girls is a travesty, you wouldn’t dare say that about ‘The Time Travellers Wife’ and I’m inclined to put Nicholls’ book in the same ilk.
‘One Day’ revolves around Dexter and Emma, best friends after a night of passion following their University graduation. They vow to stay friends and the book tells the tale of their lives, both the ups and the downs. It all sounds a little plain, boring. It’s really not. This is because each chapter of the book is set on one day – St Swithin’s Day and the story is told over twenty years.
It starts very humble, just two people sitting in a dingy room after a night of passion. As the story grows so does the cast but the book never shies away from Em and Dex. Dex and Em. Nicholls manages through emotion and writing that delivers passion to make you fall in love with these two people. By the end of the book I thought I’d known both of our ‘heroes’ for years. I suppose, I have.
Writing in such a style allows you to fill in the blanks, between the years. If something disastrous happens in one year, you’re left to add in your own information before the next chapter. It’s a brave move, to write in such a style, as many readers could be put off with only being given some of the plot. But the beauty of it is that you know the central characters so well that it just, flows.
The strongest part of the narrative, and perhaps the thing that brings about such a connection to Dexter and Emma, is the humour. Moments are laugh out loud funny, the sort of humour that you yourself have developed with family and friends. The following sentence, a prime example of the humour used throughout:
“’You’re gorgeous, you old hag, and if I could give you just one gift ever for the rest of your life it would be this. Confidence. It would be the gift of confidence. Either that or a scented candle.’”
There is such an affectionate banter between the two leads that you feel as if you’ve learned a secret code between best friends. As the bond between reader and story grows, so too does the anxiety of what occurs to the characters, the pitfalls that trap them and the decisions they make. It’s a novel that can be spoiled so easily by a sentence here and I’d rather let anyone who chooses to give over some time to it, find out everything for themselves.
To put it on a shelf with Audrey Niffeneger and Markus Zusak is a brave choice, but is one that I feel is just. Nicholls is a great storyteller and each word moves so easily from the page to your imagination, never once stumbling over an awkward piece of dialogue or description. I’m proud to have read ‘One Day’ but I’m also horribly sad that I had to close the book at the end and put it on the shelf. Until next time, Em and Dex. Dex and Em.