Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review: One Day by David Nicholls

PhotobucketAhhh...the joy of reading about two people being miserable for twenty years...

Well yes, there's that, however One Day is a very well written and a compelling read that will keep you up into the wee hours of the morning. I kept reading about this one and the premise sounded intriguing so I had to give it a try. The book follows Dexter and Emma for a span of twenty years, telling the story of where they are in their lives on one day ~ July 15 ~ every year. From everything I had heard (and read in the gazillion blurbs,) I expected this to be a love story, and while Emma does yearn to be with Dexter, love story it is not. What it is instead is a tale of lives misspent on bad decisions and two people who never quite figured out how to be happy.

One Day starts out twenty years ago, the morning after Dexter and Emma have hooked up. They've just graduated from college and their "real lives" are about to begin. Emma is idealistic and has harbored a crush on Dexter for a while. Dexter...well, Dexter doesn't seem to care very deeply about anything. They go their separate ways but remain friends over the years.He eventually gets a job as a Howard Stern like TV host and Emma begins working in a Mexican restaurant but dreams of writing. His life is a rapid descent into drinking, drugs, and sleeping with EVERY woman he crosses paths with. I found it really hard to have any sympathy for his character and to tell the truth, I kept hoping something awful would happen to him to make him wake up and quit being such an ass. But even when bad things did happen to him, he continued on with his selfish, self-destructive ways. Emma's life meanwhile is quiet and plods along slowly (marked by her own share of really bad decisions.) She eventually achieves "success" in life but she never seems to find happiness. Her relationships don't work out, she suffers from low self-esteem and I think we are supposed to believe that if only she and Dexter could figure out they belong together, they would get their happily-ever-after.

Only problem is, I never found myself rooting for them to get together because frankly, I thought Dexter was a jerk and would more than likely only break her heart anyway. I couldn't figure out for the life of me why he had such a hold over her heart for so long. I can understand it when she was in her twenties, but for two decades? Seriously? You know the girlfriend you just wanna shake cause she keeps picking the wrong men? Hello, Emma.

And the ending. Remember watching the last Lord of the Rings movie and thinking to yourself at least 4 or 5 times, "Ok, THIS must be the end?" Check. And I have some other issues with the ending, but discussing them would include spoilers and I don't wanna do that. Suffice it to say a certain pivotal event kinda pissed me off. Not to mention it was ripped right out of a popular movie from a few years ago. If you read it you will understand. Or you can email me and we can discuss it =)

Bottom line, despite my complaints, One Day IS highly readable. It gives a solid portrayal of the emptiness in living only for yourself with no regard for others (shout out to Jesse James and Tiger Woods.) It also does a fine job of showing us the changes Dex and Emma go through in their lifetimes...dreams that don't quite work out, disillusionment, aging itself, and longing for something more. Not every book can be about the winners at the game of life.

3 comments:

Marie said...

I've heard of this book before, and I'm seriously considering reading it soon. It sounds like a good read.

Rachel Star said...

Hmm, I like the idea, but even saying that, it sounds impractical to write it; some ideas just don't make brilliant books. People change, but characters in books have to stay fairly consistent all the way through, otherwise they seem confusing and fictious. However, I should probably shut up, since I've not read the book. Don't think I will be desperate to pick it up though...

Midnyte Reader said...

Great review and well written.