“He hoped to be successful, to make his parents proud and to sleep with more than one woman at the same time, but how to make these all compatible? … Things should look right. Fun; there should be a lot of fun and no more sadness than absolutely necessary”
After hearing good things about this book since its release I have wanted to read it. I read both The Understudy and Starter For Ten last year and I expected great things to come from One Day too. I was right, except I didn’t expect it to be even better than the previous books. I often hear great things in passing and keep away from stuff that might spoil the story for me so I went into this book knowing that it was about one day and that it was good. I’m glad I didn’t know anymore because every part of the story let me have my own emotions.
One Day is set over 20 years. It follows Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew on one day of the year only. This one day is July 15th, it starts in 1988, the day after their graduation from university where the two find themselves up all night talking about life and then spend much of the 15th together. You get the impression from the start that Emma and Dexter are very different people and are unlikely to become best friends but as the story progresses you realise this is exactly what they have become. You don’t actually find out about how until the very end of the book but I like that because I found myself trying to put bits together throughout the book.
I love that Nicholls has managed to get so much story into one day of the year without it sounding like a rushed diary entry, going over the past year without any true emotion. You find out about events that have happened throughout the previous year just in passing, like the passing away of Dexter’s mother, the new jobs and the changes in love interests. The characters are actually very in depth and because of the time difference in each chapter you find yourself thinking about how much the Emma of 1988 would view the Emma of 1998 and so on.
The story is told by focussing on either Emma or Dexter at one time, there will be Emma’s perspective of things then Dexter’s perspective. I like that you get the feeling that you’re getting their thoughts and feelings but also getting the outside perspective too. I found myself wanting to shout at Dexter for being a prick sometimes, because in places he really is! But also I found myself wanting to bang the heads of the pair of them together because they were both being bloody stupid. Emma had an annoying habit of not doing what you knew she really wanted to do because of, I don’t know, being scared or not fighting enough and Dexter didn’t do stuff because he was scared of how it made him look to other people and he always had to be so cool… of course becoming less cool because his actions and not realising it.
I honestly can say that this book had its shocks and there were times when I was genuinely scared about where the plotline was going, thinking “oh no don’t do that!!” One of these times had to be right towards the end of the book and anyone who has read this will understand which part I mean. It’s not an overly happy story; there are some very sad bits, but with some very happy bits and some very odd bits to laugh out loud at! I love that it provides such a range of emotion just through the one day and you find yourself thinking about Dex and Em as you knew them in 1988 and how much they’d changed.