Author: David Nicholls, 2009.
Genre: General Fiction. Relationships. Romance. Comedy/Drama.
Other Details: Paperback. 448 pages.
Twenty Years. Two People. ONE DAY - cover blurb
St. Swithin's Day, 15th July 1988 and Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation from Edinburgh University. Tomorrow they plan to go their separate ways. David Nicholls' novel charts the changing relationship between Emma and Dexter over the course of twenty years by visiting them on this same day year after year.
Working class northern lass Emma moves to London and despite her degree finds herself working as a waitress in a terrible Mexican restaurant. Meanwhile, after a couple of gap years posh Dexter drifts into working in the media becoming the host of one of those loud late night, post-pub TV shows. He enjoys the hedonistic life style of a minor celebrity. Of course, over the years their fortunes change as does their relationship.
While I am not a great fan of novels that focus on relationships, I had heard good things about this novel and was pleased when it was selected by one of my reading groups. I enjoyed the premise of each chapter being a snapshot of a single day of the year over two decades. I found it a lot less laddish than Nichols' 'Starter for Ten' and quickly warmed to Emma as a character. Dexter was far less appealing but then I've never liked that kind of bloke who is so full of himself. Certainly met enough of them during my time living in London.
Still it did feel a very realistic take on modern relationships, especially in London where people often move in quite tight circles despite the size of the city. I found it a novel that balanced the dark and light within each of us as well as the light and dark phases n the course of individual lives. Very fitting that the day was St. Swithin's Day with its legend about the weather that day setting the tone for the rest of the summer. It seemed an easy metaphor for the sunny and rainy spells experienced in life as well as the phases of a relationship.
'St. Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.'
Overall, a novel that I found insightful as well as funny and sad in turns. I read it quickly over two days and was glad that I was able to remain spoiler free (something to avoid in this case).
David Nicholls' page for 'One Day' - with excerpt, play list for the mix tapes Emma makes for Dexter and details about the upcoming film.