July 27, 2010

ONE DAY by David Nicholls

I really love Twitter. I respect the way publishers have really taken to it, using it to create buzz about their books, actively engage with readers, and create an actual relatable persona behind a huge brand. I particularly love the contests and giveaways that are conducted through Twitter – especially when I win (if only it would happen more often). Through one of these Twitter giveaways, I won a copy of David Nicholls’ One Day, a book I had been excited to read for a long time. When my hip friend in London told me how much she loved the book a few months back, I went to a bookstore in search of it, only to discover its release date in the US hadn’t yet come. Apparently it was already a huge success in the UK – I believe I remember posters for it in Tube stations when I visited London; the book’s publisher (Hachette in the UK, Random House in the US) obviously had a lot of confidence in it and put a lot behind the book. Long story short, after hearing so many good things, loving Nicholls’ other book, and winning a free ARC, I was very excited to read it.

One Day is the story of Emma and Dexter, who first truly connect on July 15, 1988, the day of their graduation. The book consists of all the following July 15ths (incidentally, the day I received One Day in the mail and started reading it) for the next twenty years; snapshots of where they are in their lives and what their relationship to each other is at that moment. Emma, the idealistic working class girl, is the absolute opposite of the rich, entitled Dexter. But from that first July 15th, the enduring importance of their relationship – as best friends, lovers and/or everything in between – is clear. As they try to navigate their twenties and thirties through all kinds of failures and successes, they become more and more vital to each other’s existence. Dexter especially – selfish, self-destructive Dexter – is only worthwhile when he is with Emma. And yet, their timing is so often very off, and their successes so often directly mirror the other one’s failures. You get a sense each year of a continuing cycle in which Dexter’s happiness is correlated to Emma’s misery, and vice versa; like their lives are two lines weaving, with the two of them (and us) waiting to meet in the middle.

Like Starter for Ten, One Day is often laugh-out-loud funny, but also impossibly heartbreaking. The kind of book that you finish and you need to just sit with for a while and catch your breath (and sob, if you’re me). Also like Starter for Ten, I became so completely invested in the characters that my moods were contingent on the state of their lives. Like only the best fiction does, it is the kind of book that’s biggest effect is in what it makes you think about your own life. Apart from being purely relatable (like in Starter for Ten, I was amazed by Nicholls’ ability to write exactly how it feels to be in your early twenties), it makes you (aka made me) think about all kinds of past relationships, and how you never know how things can and will end up, or what direction your life will go in. At the risk of overstating how good a book it is (though I think I passed that point a while back), all I can say is that I loved loved loved One Day.

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  1. Lianne, I just finished it and came back to re-read your review. I'm sobbing too!

  2. I need to add this to my reading list. Sounds so good.