ONE DAY by David Nicholls

Nicholls One book that's getting a lot of attention this summer is One Day, by David Nicholls. (I blogged about it here.) I finished it yesterday, and highly recommend it.

One Day is the story of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew – two friends in England who have a short romantic interlude right before graduation in 1988. Each chapter of One Daychecks in with Emma and Dexter on July 15th over 20 subsequent years. (The final chapter is July 15, 2008). The book tracks Emma and Dexter's relationship over that period, and in so doing tells the story of their lives from age 21 to 41. Sometimes Emma and Dexter are in close contact, and sometimes they aren't speaking. But they always have a presence in each other's lives.

Nicholls does a fine job of conveying the life stages "Em and Dex" go through together – the moorless early twenties, the seedlings of professional identity, the breakups of serious but flawed relationships, and the years when everyone else seems to be getting a life (except you). Em and Dex don't always experience these stages at the same time, but Nicholls tracks them through pitch perfect interactions (both with each other and with others) and sharp, witty descriptions of their lives.

I really enjoyed One Day. I cared about what happened to these two people, and I found them believable and sympathetic. I also liked Nicholls' writing. Here's a passage I liked:

It would be inappropriate, undignified, at thirty-eight, to conduct friendships or love affairs with the ardour and intensity of a twenty-two-year-old. Falling in love like that? Writing poetry, crying at pop songs? Dragging people into photo-booths, taking a whole day to make a compilation tape, asking people if they wanted to share your bed, just for company… Ridiculous, at thirty-eight, to expect a song or book or film to change your life. No, everything had evened out and settled down and life was lived against a general background hum of comfort, satisfaction and familiarity.  There would be no more of those nerve-jangling highs and lows. The friends they had now would be the friends they had in five, ten, twenty years' time. They expected to get neither dramatically richer nor poorer; they expected to stay healthy for a little while yet.

There's a lot to like about One Day. The ending is sad (warning!), but it's not unrealistic. I also liked that the book tracks cultural trends over the last 20 years – cell phones, email, recessions, even fashion.

BTW, the movie version of this book is supposedly already in production, so read it now!

8 Comments

  • August 1, 2010 - 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I cannot wait to read this book but I’ve been warned to have a box of tissues handy when I read it.

  • August 1, 2010 - 11:27 pm | Permalink

    I am intrigued by the checking in on one day for twenty years concept. What a great was to frame the story even if it does end on a bit of a sad note.

  • Susan
    August 8, 2010 - 10:49 am | Permalink

    I really liked this book too. I graduated college in 1986 and married my college sweetheart, so I could really relate. It reminded me of “When Harry Met Sally” in book form.

  • August 9, 2010 - 5:43 pm | Permalink

    I have been seeing this book around the book stores and blogosophere too. The book sounds like a movie I saw many years ago. When each year these two people meet each year at the same time each year. Can’t remember the movie but Alan Alda was one of the characters. Sounds like a interesting read. I will have to pick it up in the next couple weeks or so. Thanks for the review.

  • August 16, 2010 - 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to post my review for this book this week. I didn’t love it, I wonder if reading vs listening makes a difference with this book. I listened to it, wasn’t connected to the characters… I was invested and wanted to know what happened until shortly after the ‘vacation’. It’s really a sad story about two sad lives.
    I’m glad you enjoyed it – you and I usually like the same books. I’m surprised with this one 🙂

  • August 17, 2010 - 10:50 pm | Permalink

    I just finished this over the weekend, and saw your review linked on Bookworm with a View…I didn’t like it much at all. thought Dex was disastrous and Em kind of wet noodle to hang with him. But that’s the beauty of books — we can all read the same written words and have entirely different feelings about them.
    My post is here:
    http://www.gerberadaisydiaries.com

  • September 2, 2010 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    This is my favorite book I’ve read all summer, and I can’t stop raving about it.

  • December 6, 2010 - 8:16 am | Permalink

    thanks for sharing that..seems like it had good reviews, since they’re making a movie too. i hope to stick with the book, ’cause the movies adapted from books are in general worse than the book itself, though you think that the visual part of the issue should be in favor of the movie, but it doesn’t seem enough.

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