Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, December 13, 2010

"One Day" by David Nicholls

I have been beaten over the head with this book (in a good way). I've seen this cover on so many blogs that I can't imagine there's anyone reading this post who isn't saying, Ah, yes, I've read that one. So, when I saw it at my local library last week, I borrowed it like a good little lemming so that I could go over the cliff with the rest of you.

If you've been beaten over the head with this book as well, you already know the shtick: this is a series of snapshots (or maybe more like video clips) in the lives of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew during their lifelong almost-romance. The entire book takes place on the fifteenth day of July, but each chapter is exactly one year after the previous.

You know about my compulsion to read every part of a book except for the copyright page and the barcode. I thought I'd let you board my train of thought as I perused the back cover. First I noticed that some author named Tony Parsons claims this is "the best weird love story since The Time Traveler's Wife." My thought: Oooh! Could it really be? I kind of ignored the "love story" bit but liked the "weird" and loved TTTW.

The next quote that stood out was from Nick Hornby, who I've heard of but haven't read. He says this is "the perfect beach read [and I thought, oh no] for people who are normally repelled by the very idea of beach reads." Oh, OK. He snatched that one from an untimely death.

The last quote I marked left me a bit more ambivalent. BBC Radio Five Live claimed, "I couldn't think of anyone who wouldn't love this book." Hmmmmm. That's ambitious. If I've learned nothing else in reading book blogs over the past year, it's that there is no one-size-fits-all book. People don't always love my favorite books, and I've read some stinkers based on the breathless recommendations of others.

But I did like this book. I really cared about "Em and Dex," even though Dexter was quite vain and self-absorbed, and both characters had somewhat self-destructive tendencies. Dexter during his TV presenter days was the way I imagine Ryan Seacrest would be if he had a soul, but somehow I still wanted to know what was going to happen in his life. All the near-misses were frustrating (as I'm sure they were intended to be), but my favorite part was one of them--the vacation in Greece with all the sexual tension.

The story reminded me a lot of Bridget Jones's Diary, except seriouser. And maybe Emma was less pitiful than Bridget most of the time. Every now and then some Four Weddings and a Funeral was thrown in, along with a bit of Notting Hill for good measure. But this book had more substance than the usual romantic comedy. It teetered precariously over fluffy territory at times, but at least I never had to read about anyone's throbbing manhood or heaving bosoms.

I've had the feeling before of not enough pages remaining in a book for a satisfactory resolution. Here I had the opposite problem. In the middle of chapter sixteen--75 pages from the end--life is simultaneously good for both Emma and Dexter for the first time, and it's such a relief, but with 75 pages to go I knew it was going to sour. When I reached the inevitable sad part, all I could think was, Oh, come ON. The book really kind of lost me at that point. Which is odd, since more than likely Part Five is the place where a true human would be crying buckets. If you have ever questioned my heartlessness, here's the evidence: I didn't cry, nor did I even feel like I was trying to avoid it.

So, my verdict? The book was great up until Part Five. After that it was still good, but I'd lost my connection with it.

Did you know? The movie is coming out next year, with Anne Hathaway as Emma and Jim Sturgess as Dexter. Which reminds me of the book's quote from the Daily Mail: "The feel good film must surely be just around the corner." They were right. And you know what? I think it's going to suck.


Kristi said...


I totally understand your reaction to what happened. The last part was tough to read. I think the reason it affected me differently was just where I was at the moment. A couple of days before I read this book, my husband's uncle was killed in a car crash by a drunk driver. If I had read it at any other time, I don't think I would have had any emotional connection to it and would have been annoyed with David Nicholls for going there.


I too agree that there is not a single book that everyone will like. I love the jab at Seacrest.

Teresa said...

I haven't read this, but I did just purchase a copy at my library's book sale last weekend. I'd love to read it before the movie comes out, but my TBR being what it is, we'll just have to see, LOL.

Your discussion of the ending has me intrigued because I tend to like it when authors go for the sad ending although I don't usually cry, which I suppose makes me even more heartless than you :-)

Lesa said...

I have absolutely never heard of this book! Where have I been?!

the gimmick sounds very 'When Harry Met Sally' but I can tell I don't care if I ever read it!

Always enjoy your conversational reviews-- Even of books I'll probably never read-- I still like to know they exist!

Jessica said...

"Every now and then some Four Weddings and a Funeral was thrown in, along with a bit of Notting Hill for good measure."

I totally agree at times it did read like a british rom-com. I read this on holiday and it was the perfect holiday read and as a result I really loved it. I'm looking forward to the film.

Dizzy C said...

I loved this book too.
I was shocked by the turn of events. It was sudden and unexpected.

For anyone who enjoyed this and the Brit rom coms, I am reading From Notting Hill with Love....Actually by Ali McNamara.


Kathy said...

Oof, Kristi, I can imagine the timing was pretty rough. I'm so sorry to hear about that! It must have been horrible.

Teresa--I love library book sales!! I don't think the movie comes out until November, so maybe you'll have time to dig your way down to the book before then.

Lesa--you're right, it is kind of WHMS! Except more British. Anyway, you're like Elvis. I think he threw up in his mouth a little bit when he heard I'd read this one.

Jess--I bet your blog is one of the ones where I first saw this book. I'll have to go back and re-read what you said about it. I guess you're not worried that the movie will suck? I had the same feelings after reading The Time Traveler's Wife. I just didn't want to see the movie at all (but eventually I did, and though it wasn't great, it wasn't half as bad as I expected).

Carol--I think I've heard about the one you're reading--probably on your blog, actually. Is Hugh Grant in it too? ;)