Sunday 21 November 2010

One Day

One Day by David Nicholls
I think that it doesn't bode well for this book that I am not left with much of an impression of the writing or events. I had to give the book back to the library because of the move so cannot refer back to it. I have also read 'Starter for Ten' a couple of years ago, the story of a young man's obsession with University Challenge, but it was only a passing entertainment. So 'One Day' is the story of Emma and Dexter, told in chapters that each tell the story of a single day over twenty years, following the ups and downs of their lives and loves from the end of their student days through to middle age.

I was left totally unconvinced by the whole thing. Their relationship seemed to have very little basis; Emma having had a crush on Dex for some time and they end up together very briefly at an end of year party. After spending an uneventful day together they start up a casual correspondence, Dex writing monosyllabic postcards from his exotic jaunts and Emma responding with long missives about her terrible job in a fast food restaurant, desperately trying to hide her growing feelings for him in the face of his apparent disinterest. Dex's life is on a roll, quickly moving into being a celebrity television presenter with a glamourous lifestyle and girlfriend to match, while Emma slogs it out with the Mexican food. In some of the chapters they meet, in others we just catch up on what has happened to them, sometime several years go by without them seeing each other. Dex goes into decline with the drinking but then finds the girls of his dreams, marries and has a daughter, while Emma trains to be a teacher, works in an inner city comprehensive and settles into a long term relationship with a man she appears indifferent to. As Dex's life goes further into decline with the breakup of his marriage, Emma's finally takes off as she starts writing children's books based a young girls she encounters while putting on the school play.
So predictably they finally get together, Dex treating Emma like some kind of 'fallback' when his life has really gone down the toilet, turning up out of the blue and just assuming she will fall willingly into his open arms ... which she duly does. I sort of liked Emma but she was such a doormat, the kind of character that many male authors create to serve as a foil for the bloke who the story is really about. Dex is just such a tedious, self-indulgent, self-absorbed egotist that I wanted her to finally see through him and be happy with someone else, when really all she was doing was apparently waiting for him to 'grow up' (which in my opinion he never did). I only stuck with the book because I kept hoping that he was going to do something interesting with their relationship. Nicholls tried to redeem Dex by making him a half-way decent father to his daughter and making him start up his own business and actually do some real work for the first time in his life but I was not convinced, he is all charm and no substance. And then he kills Emma off! And just to prove my point Dex goes right back to his old ways and drinks himself into an oblivion of self-pity, only to be rescued by his ex-wife and his elderly father (why the man inspires such devotion remains a mystery to me) and we end the book with him settling down with the manager of his shop a few years later.
What can I say ... it was just plain irritating.

1 comment:

  1. I skipped your spoiler warning (as I'm still on and off trying to finish this book! LOL!) and read your last sentence! I think I am headed that way too!

    Take care


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