One Day by David Nicholls
One Day has been on my list of books to read for probably the past five years. I watched the film, which I thought was slightly average due to Anne Hathaway’s dodgy Yorkshire accent. One of my pet peeves is when directors/producers get an American actress to do an English regional accent when there are so many fine British actresses. Anyhow, I digress.
I read David Nicholl’s Us, about a year ago and rather enjoyed it which made me want to read One Day even more. I put it on my Christmas list and my parents very kindly obliged about bought it for me.
One Day charts the lives of university pals Dexter and Emma on the 15th July for 20 years. The first chapter opens in 1988 on the night they graduate. As Nicholls charts the beginnings of their adult lives there’s romantic sparks from the beginning and their friendship blossoms. After graduation Emma begins work in an awful Mexican restaurant while Dexter is riding high as a presenter of ‘lads TV shows’ and living the celebrity life to max but the death of his mother causes his life to spiral out of control as he drinks to excess which inevitably leads to his downfall.
Emma on the other hand has moved in with her wannabe comedian boyfriend Ian. She spends much of her twenties wondering what life is all about, was this really the life she was promised when she finished university – an awful job and boyfriend she doesn’t really love. She eventually bites the bullet and trains to be a teacher and then dumps Ian. But it’s not all plain sailing as she has an affair with her married and older head teacher and eventually packs the job in to fulfil her dream as a writer
Emma and Dexter do go through several years of not speaking due to his brash behaviour but the pair eventually speak at a mutual friends’ wedding when he tells her he is to marry and become a father. While Emma is pleased Nicholls cleverly hints at her heartbreak that Dexter is happy with another woman. But Dexter’s short lived happiness doesn’t last as married life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as he goes back on the drink and Sylvie runs off with his best friend.
As all of her friends get married and have babies Emma flees to Paris to write her series of books. She invites Dexter there to help heal his broken heart but they eventually give into their feelings and start the romantic relationship we all wanted for them!
Emma gets Dexter back on the straight and narrow, he opens an upmarket café and she continues with her successful career as an author. They marry and try for a family but all that is cruelly taken away from Dexter when Emma is killed by a car.
The end of the book charts Dexter’s struggles as he deals with her death but the reader at the end is left knowing Dexter is content as he has a solid relationship now with his daughter and a romantic one with the manager of his café.
The book is a clever idea and offers something different to the usual chick lit format. Nicholls hints all the way through of their romantic feelings for each other but unlike the usual chick lit format you aren’t sure if they ever will get together. It’s realistic and gritty and like with Us he really makes his characters human and believable. He doesn’t offer a happy ending which is sad but then does life really have a happy ending? Both characters have high hopes when they graduate that life is going to be wonderful and perfect but as time goes on they settle for contentment and the status quo like the vast majority of the population.
This has become easily one of my favourite books.