Book Review: One Day

One Day

David Nicholls

Vintage

448 pages

Once people know you’re a big reader, do they start suggesting books for you to read?  Because it sure happens to me quite frequently.  Case in point, an attorney in my office, knowing what an avid reader I am, showed up in the office one day with One Day.  I was instantly dismissive of it, although the synopsis, along with Nick Hornby’s seal of approval, started garnering my interest.  I figured I would have to read it anyway, just to be nice.  Besides, I needed something fluffy to read during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew are just graduating college in London on July 15, 1988, when they end up in bed together.  It doesn’t appear as though the deal were sealed, but we’ll still call it a one night stand.  The only difference is the two stayed in contact over the years.  The reader gets a glimpse into their lives every July 15, up until 2007.  I loved that aspect of the book, because there was only so much we, as the reader, could understand or know.  It becomes obvious from the get go though that these two, Dex and Em, Em and Dex, belong together.  They form this unique friendship that seems to stand the test of time, although the timing for a romance is never there.

The two encounter many challenges along the way.  They both have self esteem issues.  Em becomes introspective and it takes her awhile to break out of her shell and go after the things she really wants in life.  For awhile there she is stuck as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant, dating a failing comic named Ian Whitehead, whom she may love but for whom she has absolutely no passion for.  Meanwhile, Dex is living in the fast lane.  Picture a Carson Daly-esque TV host who quickly spirals out of control due to excess women, booze and drugs.  Given the combination, Em and Dex encounter speed bumps along the way and their relationship begins to fray.

Despite what I had been told about this book (said attorney could not put it down), I had a hard time becoming involved.  I was irritated with Dex and Em.  I actually liked Dex and was rooting for him, however corny that may sound.  I knew from the start that he was a likable guy who was just unable to accept himself.  He wanted to be considered cool and accepted.  Em, on the other hand, annoyed me.  I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just grow up and make herself happy.  She had all the tools available, but she was too scared of failure.  Her relationship with Ian annoyed me to no end because I knew she was just settling.

Something happened though, which changed my mind about One Day.  This is definitely a *spoiler*, so skip this paragraph if you’d like.  Emma and Dex come together, realize that they are in love, and get married.  And then . . . Emma dies.  Awful, I know.  It’s a freak accident.  She’s riding her bike along the roadway when a driver, not paying attention, hits her.  On July 15.  The impact this had on me, I cannot describe.  I seriously thought about this book, and Emma’s death, for days afterward.  I was just heartbroken.  And however much I was ambivalent about the book beforehand, how can that not be wiped away when I have such a strong response to the ending?  What a conundrum.

So, as you can see, I had mixed emotions about One Day.  Would I read it all over again for the ending?  The answer, I think, is yes, because if I am so impacted, that has to be an indication of something good.

Other Reviews:

Books and Movies

You’ve GOTTA Read This!

The Captive Reader

I borrowed this book from a coworker.

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9 Responses

  1. I just got this one for Christmas and haven’t really looked too much at it yet. I know it’s had a lot of hype. I managed to stop reading when you warned about spoilers (thanks!) but at least I know that some of it will be worth getting to now!

  2. Hmmmm, I keep reading reviews that essentially say it’s not as great as everyone says it is which keeps swaying me from reading it. I couldn’t help it… I read the spoiler, LOL. I may have to read it to see if I’m affected in the same way.

  3. I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I have a totally different response to a book all the way up to the ending and then it changes with the ending. One thing I know for sure with this one – when I see the movie I am taking along an entire box of kleenex!

  4. People rarely offer me suggestions for books; I think it’s because they are convinced I’ve already read everything. 🙂

  5. I’m really looking forward to this one. I’m sorry to hear it was a bit uneven, but I hope to enjoy it!

  6. I used to work with one lady who would always give me reading suggestions (sometimes bringing me books) and they were just not my type of books. Luckily we weren’t in the same department for too long! haha… I just feel so bad saying no.

    Anyway, I really can’t wait to read this one. I sort of skimmed your review because I may be picking it up soon so didn’t want to get spoiled 🙂

  7. I skipped the spoiler, but I’m intrigued! It helps knowing it has Nick Horny’s seal of approval 😛 Sometimes books I have mixed feelings about end up really growing on me with time.

  8. Thanks for this review. I have almost picked this one up a few times. I am still ambivalent.

  9. I had a similar reaction. The book was SO hyped, that I think I had unrealistic expectations going in. I was completely annoyed by those two characters. I just wanted to shake them both. And then the ending literally *hit* and now, six months later, I still can’t get their story and the significance of the title/Thomas Hardy quote out of my head. For a book I didn’t like that much, it sure has stuck with me.

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