I first heard about "One Day" by David Nicholls last year and put it in the back of my mind as something to read...one day. Then it was introduced to me again when there was talk of it becoming a movie. When my local book club recently decided that we should all read it for our next meeting, I agreed to do so. I was left with mixed feelings though....
Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet in 1998 at a graduation party. From that point on, their lives intersect over the course of twenty years. Snapshots of their lives are portrayed on the same day every year, July 15th, also known as St. Swithin's Day. They cross each other's paths while immersed in other relationships or trying to figure out their careers. While July 15th seems like an average day, it eventually becomes significant to their lives.
When I first started reading "One Day," I wasn't convinced that I would be able to read the entire novel. It felt slow and overly wordy for quite a few chapters. Then it suddenly picked up some steam and I breezed through the rest of the story. I really liked the descriptiveness of the people and locations. Even though I read this after I found out who was cast in the movie and could only picture Anne Hathaway as Emma the entire time, my mental images of Dexter had more freedom, as I've never seen Jim Sturgess in anything else (as far as I can recall). The depictions of the other characters were thoughtful and allowed a clear visualization for me each time someone new was introduced. There were some humorous moments, as well as some heartfelt ones. The dialogue was realistic (and engaging once I got into the story) and I connected with the characters as if they were real friends of mine. If I had one word to describe this novel, it would be "epic." It has a feel of chick lit, but there is so much to take in from it and the characters are taken on a journey over the course of time.
I don't want to give any spoilers, so I can't say the main thing I didn't like about this story. Just be aware that there is a shocking climax and then see for yourself. The thing that did bother me most aside from that was the Benjamin Disraeli syndrome. There's an episode of "Family Guy" where Peter mentions someone historical (to the UK) named Benjamin Disraeli. Then they flash to a clip of Benjamin saying, in a haughty British accent, "You don't even know who I am." That's how I felt throughout most of the story. They would drop names of famous people and I had no idea of whom they were speaking, such as Jean Seberg. Maybe I'm just not cultural enough, but I would have liked some artistic or pop culture references to be more on my level. I recognized "Jurassic Park" and that was about it. They even mentioned songs that I have never heard of. I know I don't live in the UK, but I'm sure there are shared artistic interests with the US.
Overall, "One Day" was a compelling story, once I got through the first few chapters. However, if you want everything at once, I would suggest just seeing the movie. I don't even know if it follows the book exactly, but I'm definitely interested in seeing it, now that I finished reading the book. I want to see how the actors play out the roles and if the visualizations are similar to what was in my head. I liked the concept of this novel though. It's interesting to see how much can happen over a year's time, or maybe longer. It made me realize how much time has passed between when I've seen certain friends of mine and now and how much we've changed during that passage of time.
(Cover art: Movie tie-in, top left. Original, bottom right.)
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