Book review: One Day

Title: One Day
Author: David Nicholls

It has certainly been quite a while since I read any romantic novels, which is a genre I am not terribly passionate about. What caught my eye then was the movie poster for “One Day,” the film adaptation of the novel (shown above), which has this vintage wash and a heart-melting kiss that I decided to give the book a shot.

My verdict is a read that would be worth your time, evoking a complex concoction of mixed emotions which can be at times be hilarious but would leave you feeling warm, fuzzy and melancholic. Many reviews on Amazon compared it to the movie “When Harry Met Sally” but for me, the book does not share as much tear-jerking quality as the movie.

Written by David Nicholls, each chapter of “One Day” allows readers to annually check in with the protagonists, Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, on July 15 over a span of 20 years to take a sneak peek into how their lives have changed over the past year.

Reading through the book is like cruising through the life journeys of two best friends, whose paths barely cross each other after graduating from college. Yet as true friends discover, they grow separately but never really grow apart. Such emphasis on the value and strength of friendships transcending time and space described in the book sits well with me.

Just like Em and Dex at the start of the book, I am also at this crossroad, after graduating from college, staring at a muzzy and unknown future that lies ahead with a sense of trepidation and anticipation because at this moment, everything seems possible. As I rethink about my pre-workplace life, I realize that it is much easier to make new friends than to keep in good touch with my old ones. To remain true friends like Em and Dex for 20 years is quite a feat to reckon with.

David Nicholls, author of "One Day"
Moreover, Em and Dex have been wonderfully portrayed by the author, set up so that these imperfect characters are poles apart – Em, a hardworking, downright practical but luckless English teacher, and Dex, a hippy and free-spirited TV presenter. Such an arrangement spells hilarious and awkward moments where Em tries to contain her girlish infatuations for Dex, whilst having to be his soul mate, listening to his sexual escapades, relationship crackdowns and self-destructive behavior.

As they traversed through the high and low points of their lives, the other recurring topic revolves around growing up and growing old. Em at 27 started wondering if she is getting old, questioning herself about love, life and happiness, particularly with her relationship with her then-partner Ian.

“I love him, she thought, I’m just not in love with him and also I don’t love him. I’ve tried, I’ve strained to love him but I cant. I am building a life with a man I don’t love, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

David Nicholls masterfully explores the inner emotions and tensions of each character throughout the years and the changing woes and pressures they face. At late thirty and still single, she expressed great frustration and weariness about changes in her friends lives from gregarious to boring and the disappointed glances cast upon her singlehood.

This book is overall great fun to just pick up for a light-hearted read without having to spend too much brainpower to digest the plot. Yet I remain dissatisfied with the ending where the author tried to add a creative twist to the plot by jumping rather suddenly back in time and space. In my opinion, such a move is a little too abrupt and jerky, disrupting the overall flow of the story.

Have you read “One Day”? Or are you going to catch or have already caught the movie starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess? Leave your comments below to share with me what you thought about the book?

I will sign off this post with the trailer to the movie!


6 thoughts on “Book review: One Day

  1. Fantastic book – it totally deserves its place as the bedtselling UK paperback of 2011. Starter For Ten is also great.

  2. I read the book back in Jan when I was lured by it’s #1 standing on amazon’s book list. Absolutely loved it! Reading another of his book, but doesn’t seem to live up to One Day.

    1. Hear hear, the #1 on Amazon somewhat changes the books that we read. It’s kinda freaky and voyeuristic to be reading about 2 people lives over 20 years, like how our lives might also somewhat be like theirs and we knew it all back in our 20s

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