Book Reviews: One Day

Thursday, October 28, 2010


One Day
by David Nicholls
★★★★

We, the reader, first meet Dexter and Emma on the day after they graduate from college, July 15, 1988. Dexter is a wealthy playboy with no real worries. Emma is a bookish girl with high morals and something to prove. Somehow the two hit it off and the story follows their lives from their early twenties to their late thirties.

For some reason, I was under the impression that Emma and Dexter only met once a year and that was the “One Day.” But instead, the “one day” gives us a snapshot of what their lives are like on July 15 each year for almost 20 years. They still interact the rest of the year, but the reader doesn’t see every other day. This felt much more natural to me than the way I had originally thought it was structured.

Dexter seemed to have a tenuous grasp on reality at best. He acts rashly, makes careless decisions and takes all of the people in his life for granted. He expects no consequences to his actions and it's hard to understand what Emma sees in him sometimes.

This was a strange book for me, because I never really liked Dexter. I kept thinking he would completely redeem himself, but he never really did. Yet at the same time I loved the character of Emma and I did like them when together when they were at their best. I wanted to know what happened and I continued thinking about the characters after I finished the book. So it was really good, just not what I expected. I think that’s a tribute to Nicholls’ wonderful writing. Even if you don’t love the character, he makes you feel sympathy or pity for him. I’ve heard him compared to Nick Horby and there’s a definite resemblance.

"Nothing here was neutral, everything displayed an allegiance or a point of view. The room was a manifesto."

"There was a time when they were barely able to pass a photo booth without cramming inside it, because they had yet to take each others permanent presence for granted."

14 comments:

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've read a lot about this book and am kicking myself I haven't picked it up sooner! Thanks for the reminder!

Kristi said...

I read this a few months ago and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Dexter was so self-destructive and a narcissist, but Nicholls somehow made him sympathetic. I agree that his writing is similar to Hornby's. Great review.

nomadreader said...

I had the same understanding as you: they met one day a year. I have this one on my Kindle and hope to get to it by the end of the year!

S. Krishna said...

OH - I had the meeting once a year impression too. Thanks for clarifying that! This is one I definitely want to read, though I'm trying to temper my expectations.

Vaishnavi said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I get what you mean by feeling for a character even if you don't like him. John Updike's Rabbit is like that. Nice review!

Brenna said...

I really really want to read this book!

Jessica said...

I thought the book was going to be structured as you originally thought too which would have been rubbish. Im looking forward to the film.

Jenners said...

I really liked this book, and I went into it thinking it would be structured that same way you did. I think it is to his credit that he chose to do it the way he did. I thought it was just an interesting, involving read!

Avid Reader said...

Vaishnavi - I've heard a few people say that about Updike's Rabbit. I'm curious to read it.

Jessica - I'm looking forward to the movie too. From what I've seen so far, the cast looks pretty good.

Jenners - I'm with you. I think having them run into each other once every year would have been very fake. I liked this much more.

Teacher/Learner said...

I completely forgot about this book which sounded good from an earlier review. Such an interesting structure! It reminds me of When Harry Met Sally, except they interact between the times we check in with them. Very nice :)

Bookworm1858 said...

I read this and I had the same reaction to the characters as you. I never really warmed up to Dexter but I loved Emma. And you didn't comment on the ending: yay or nay? I am more nay [Don't want to put any spoilers for people].

Bybee said...

The premise sounds interesting...but the name Dexter makes me think of the TV show.

Avid Reader said...

Teacher - It's very When Harry Met Sally. I kept thinking of lines from that movie the whole time I was reading it.

Bookworm - Definitely wanted to avoid spoilers, but I lean strongly towards nay as well. It felt like a cop out to me.

Bybee - Me too! But it's a very different character.

Alexandra said...

I'm looking forward to this one! I want to read it before the movie is out and it's already in my bookshelf.