Tuesday, August 23, 2011
ONE DAY by David Nicholls (2009) Random House, 435 pages
Having just seen the film featuring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway as Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morely, I was curious to read Nicholls’ novel to see what made the screenplay and what, out of respect for the visual form, decidedly did not. So, when my neighbour Jennifer proffered her copy, I happily accepted and then read the book over two evenings. As Nick Hornby (one of my favourite contemporary voices of fiction: ABOUT A BOY, HIGH FIDELITY, JULIET, NAKED) kvelled on his blog, ONE DAY is “big, absorbing, smart, fantastically readable.”
That the protagonists’ journeys mirror a timeline similar to my own (having graduated university in the late 80s) made the story feel all-the-more relatable as Dexter and Emma find their way both independently and then together over two decades, both professionally and personally. Shakespeare was right: “the course of true love never did run smooth.”
If you’ve seen the film, then you know that the narrative is built on the conceit that we peer into the lives of Dexter and Emma on July 15th over the course of 20 years from when they graduate from the University of Edinburgh in 1988 to where they are in 2008.
What I especially enjoyed in the novel were the breezy missives that the two pen to each other because of the intimacies they reveal and the epigraphs for each section where Nicholls relies on beloved work by Philip Larkin, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy to set the tone. I am, after all, essentially a literary nerd.
If you’ve ever wanted someone you couldn’t have (and, honestly, who hasn’t?), then ONE DAY just might be the zeitgeist story for you.