When David Nicholls’ novel One Day first came out in 2009, I remember being vaguely aware of its existence but not particularly interested in reading it. A film version followed in 2011, and at that point I learned more about the plot thanks to previews and reviews in Entertainment Weekly. One Day, it seemed, looked at the lives of two people on a single day- July 15- for twenty years. It seemed intriguing, but still I did not read the book. I attribute this to a silly phase I went through where I pretended to not like chick lit, which I assumed this book was.
I finally picked up a copy for $1.50 at Goodwill two days ago, and may I just say: If this is book is, in fact, chick lit, this is the first time ever that a book in that genre has made me cry.** And I read a lot of chick lit. Make of that what you will.
One Day looks at twenty years worth of July 15ths in the lives of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, two best friends who always seem to be just on the edge of becoming something more. In spite of their obvious chemistry, the timing is never right for Dexter and Emma. Coincidence, bad luck, and bad times seem determined to keep them apart.
While Emma struggles to find her path after college, Dexter seems to have it made, what with his frequent travels and success as a T.V. presenter. Over time Emma gradually finds her way, enjoying first a career as an English teacher and later as an author. Dexter, meanwhile, spirals out of control, turning to alcohol and drugs to help him cope when he finds his career slipping away.
Laugh out loud funny at times, Nicholls writes in an appealing and manageable way that still manages to effectively convey the love, the heartache, and the spirit found in abundance throughout the novel. I found myself reading passages over and over, simply because the words resonated with me.
I also appreciated that Dexter and Emma’s relationship was different from many star crossed lovers I’ve encountered in writing and film. Dexter and Emma don’t have a perfect relationship that leaves you begging for them to beat the odds. Rather, there were times that I was convinced that they weren’t meant to be, or perhaps that theirs was a relationship always meant to float in the best friends zone. Like any relationship you will encounter in the real world, theirs has high and lows, requires effort from both parties, and is not immune to the passage of time.
And the ending. Oh, the ending. I cried. I was briefly enraged that David Nicholls would do that to me. How dare he cause me emotional anguish after spending the past two days faithfully making my way through his book’s pages. But now, after half a day has passed, I can look at it and realize that the ending is perfect in its imperfection. It’s life. It’s chance, it’s bad luck, it’s coincidence. It’s fate. It’s destiny.
Whatever it is, it’s damn good. Go read it.
** I really don’t classify this as a “chick lit” type book. In fact, I imagine that there are quiet a few men who might enjoy it.