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One Day – David Nicholls – 9/10

“Emma knew from novels that you should never cave in to marriage”

David Nicholls’ latest offering follows Emma Morley, star student with a funny Yorkshire accent, and Dexter Mayhew, hell-raising and underachieving public schoolboy, on St Swithin’s Day every day for twenty years. We see their serendipitous relationship expand and buckle in the heat of the misfortunes and blessings of life and love.

This was EVERYWHERE last year. Bloggers who reviewed it included Annabel Gaskella, Sasha Sasha and the Silverfysh, Simon at Savidge Reads, Jackie at Farm Lane Books and Darren at Bart’s Bookshelf. I read the first chapter as a free sample on my Kindle and was instantly hooked by the freshness of hte idea and the two strong voices of Emma and Dexter. So it came home from the library with me last Thursday and I’d finished it the following afternoon (somewhat to the annoyance of my Business Analysis tutor, who may not have received my full attention in class).

I thought the principle was not only very clever, giving us the long timespan needed to examine the dynamics of the relationship as our protagonists move through idealistic studenthood, gap year adventures, depressing poverty and meteoric success, addiction and romantic problems. By using a set date, Nicholls exempts himself from needing his vignettes to be exciting – the drudge and perseverance in everyday actions render our protagonists Everyman and Everywoman, rather than ordinary people who have something extraordinary happen to them (such as in The Time Traveller’s Wife, which is told over a similar timespan). As such, the characters become so much more real and their development is more valuable to the reader because they could be among us, in our daily lives.

As one is presumably supposed to, I found Emma sympathetic and very likeable – I felt sorry for her misfortunes, even when they were self-inflicted – and Dexter self-indulgent, annoying and dangerous; the kind of person who makes me nervous. I loved the way London was portrayed – glamorous and wonderful for the fortunate, soul-destroying and vicious to the unlucky (as I did the description of life as a homeless man in Strike Back). Emma resigns herself one evening to a fags-and-booze-run and realises that she has become one of those sallow, haggard thirty-something women exhausted by life one sees so often at my end of London.

I really enjoyed this, and having enjoyed Starter for Ten, I’m keen to read some more of Nicholls’ work.

Other reviews/articles: Readers’ Entertainment on the conversion process from book to film, Jen at Devourer of Books interviews David Nicholls

Additional info:
I borrowed this from the library in hardback.
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; 448 pp. paperback.
Buy this from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use these links, which goes towards giveaways.

12 thoughts on “One Day – David Nicholls – 9/10”

  1. Sorry this came in under my work account first time round.

    I didn’t expect to enjoy this anywhere near as much as I did. It turned up on one of my reading group lists and the only think I could see in its favour as I prepared to read it was that it didn’t seem to be going to take up too much mental energy at a very busy time. As I got to the end, however, I found myself engaged in it in a way I had not expected. I though Nicholls used the structure he gave himself very well indeed. It could so easily have become repetitive but he focus round the day in a different way each time it recurred and stopped the book from becoming just a series of unrelated snapshots. I will definitely read more of his books and I hadn’t expected to feel like that at all.

  2. Love your first paragraph! It’s really nice to read a true bestseller that is a really well-written book for a change. It was a great book group pick too.

    1. Thanks! I must join a book group or two – books seem to “work” or not in a book group based on a particular set of criteria which would not occur to me as an ordinary reader.

  3. Know what you mean about the book being everywhere – I wasn’t sure about it, read the first chapter while standing up in a Waterstones (yes, at one of the 3 for 2 tables) and carried on while in the queue to pay, on the way to the tube etc etc.

    And I like your review too – the aspects of the book you’ve picked out sparked all sorts of ideas and associations with my experience of reading it.

  4. I missed this entirely, where was I? Shall now go and look for it, and ‘Starter for Ten’ too. Thank you!

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