Lucy's Reviews > One Day

One Day by David Nicholls
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Jul 25, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: gloomy, romance, coming-of-age, adult, book-with-no-ending, open-ended-book
Read from July 25 to 30, 2011

** spoiler alert ** I picked up One Day at the airport. I already had a few books on me (as any member of goodreads would). I'd seen the trailer for the movie, but I still think it was mostly an impulse. There was no conscious 'must read before film' vibe for me.

The hook for One Day is that the story spans many years but takes place on only one day, the same day every year. Sometimes the characters are together; sometimes their lives have taken them in vastly different directions. As techniques go it was fairly well executed. Every major event does not happen on this one day a year, but some cheating does occur. I didn't find the cheating too off putting although I did notice it. For instance, Emma and Dexter meet on this day, which is why the day was probably selected, but they also stop speaking for several years after a conversation held on this day -- then several years later they begin speaking again on this day. In general, however, the author goes through some pains to make the day average through a majority of the book. Most of the time it is a successful snapshot of the moment they are living in.

The biggest problem, and what diminished my enjoyment of the book, was the main characters. I didn't find either main character lovable. Dexter is most spoiled rich boys and when Emma isn't suffering she is bland. I certainly didn't think their romance was epic enough to warrant a book let alone a book like this where their lives and romance are tracked over decades. Yet, at the same time, their imperfect circle back to one another, their irredeemable personality traits, made the experience worth while for me. Most of the time I only tolerated Dexter. Emma wasn't any bright shinning light despite the author's aims. But... they both fucked up in ways I could relate to. They made mistakes, faltered over pride, and threw away opportunities with both hands. Maybe I didn't like them because sometimes they painted a mirror image of my own mistakes. None of the situations remotely resembled my life and yet I felt a constant, perhaps universal, connection to some of my own worst choices.

I don't think Emma and Dexter's romance could have turned out any differently. They weren't right for each other the first time they met. They weren't right for each other each time they edged closer to being something. The separate, winding paths their lives took made it possible for that (forgive me) spark, to develop into something. If they'd done more than brush against the idea of being in love in their early twenties then they would have been each other's first mistake instead of the best thing that ever happened to either of them.

Emma's death surprised and saddened me. It was written bleakly, as if everything important about Emma was snuffed out along with her life. There's no whisper of souls or an after-life, neither of which I believe in. I respect that the author didn't pad it out to comfort people, although I expect the starkness of her loss more than her death is what made so many people unhappy. We get to see Dexter go on for thirty or forty pages without Em. He is miserable, then slightly less miserable, and then finally able to remember her with some sense of peace. When he called her his best friend in the context of someone taking her away I felt more sappy than during her actual death scenes. Probably because with that line, I realized why the story was about these two people I didn't like much. They were the most important events in one another's lives, the very best thing life had given either of them, and this is how it happened. They didn't need to be epic and I didn't need to like either of them to appreciate the significance and the way things worked out.

Overall the book has some beautiful, charming writing. I underlined many sections of the book to reread later and if I'm feeling ambitious I'll add it to the quote section on goodreads. Despite the writing, I can't get over not quite liking the characters for a large portion of the book. Three stars. I think maybe I'll give it four if I read it when I'm older.
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Quotes Lucy Liked

David Nicholls
“He wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph.”
David Nicholls, One Day

David Nicholls
“She had never been a proficient flirt. Her spasms of kittenish behaviour were graceless and inept, like normal conversation on roller skates. but the combination of the retsina and sun made Emma feel sentimental and light-headed. She reached for her roller skates.”
David Nicholls, One Day

David Nicholls
“And it was at moments like this that she had to remind herself that she was in love with him, or had once been in love with him, a long time ago.”
David Nicholls, One Day

Reading Progress

07/26/2011 page 254

Comments (showing 1-7)

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Wendy Darling You liked this a lot more than I did. :)

Lucy What did you find off putting about it? The characters themselves were really difficult people to like, at least for me.

Wendy Darling As you said--I didn't like the characters and I didn't understand at all why they cared about each other or why we were supposed to care about them. And the ending, with the very small amount of time after the big event, felt so pointless to me. :/ But a lot of people like this one! Just not the type of writing style or story that I enjoy.

Aly (Fantasy4eva) I had conflicted thoughts on this one. But I do think I liked it more than I disliked it at parts. My problem was the main characters. So darn un-likeable. And like Wendy, I was pretty underwhelmed by her death. I didn't really find myself caring and it just seemed so pointless. And yes, it's so clear that they just weren't meant for one another which I guess is what makes the book so sad in a way.

Lucy I think they were meant for each other, but not at the moment when they met. Maybe I'm being dew-eyed and romantic on that front, but I think they had to grow up and change to fit together. At no point did I ever think they fit with someone else. It would've been nice if they'd fit together in the beginning, but thwen it would probably have been a story about growing apart instead of growing together.

Aly (Fantasy4eva) Lucy wrote: "I think they were meant for each other, but not at the moment when they met. Maybe I'm being dew-eyed and romantic on that front, but I think they had to grow up and change to fit together. At no p..."

Really? For me, personally, I just recall a certain moment and this very clear thought hit me. 'they are just not meant for each other' and it weighed heavy on me because after all that they had been through, I wanted them to be happy together so much. Of course everyone will have different opinions on it. I've been reading reviews and either people seem to love it or hate it. I saw the trailer and knew at once that it wasn't for me. Have you seen the movie?

Lucy I haven't seen the movie, although I keep meaning to see it. I started off thinking they weren't meant for each other. They needed to go down their separate paths. If they'd started a relationship earlier it would have been at the cost of the life long connection. It took awhile for life to shape them into a fit.

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