Books Every Woman Should Read: One Day
IT may seem blindingly obvious, but none of us know what life has in store for us – good or bad. While we make plans and sometimes meticulously plot our futures, we have no idea if we are fated for something else entirely. It’s the concept of fate which underpins David Nicholls’ One Day, a 2009 novel which follows the on-again, off-again romance between Dexter and Emma, two university graduates.
They meet on the night of their graduation, July 15 1988, at Edinburgh University. Emma is taken with Dexter, however, he is not thinking beyond a one-night stand.
Yet, Dexter and Emma keep in touch, and the book checks in on them on July 15 every year. Both end up in London. Despite Emma’s first-class honours degree, she becomes disillusioned and adrift, waitressing in a terrible restaurant and becoming increasingly bitter. Meanwhile, the charming and handsome Dexter fits like a glove into the laddish 90s and gets a job presenting a particularly awful late-night chat show called largin’ it on a satellite channel.
Although they keep in contact, their paths diverge – Emma is afraid to take risks personally or professionally, while Dexter is seduced by his minor fame and becomes insufferable. He also becomes increasingly dependent on alcohol and drugs and this also puts a strain on his friendship with Emma.
The pair stumble through their twenties, in and out of disastrous relationships and careers. As Dexter’s star begins to fall, Emma’s rises and she begins a writing career in Paris. The book will ring painfully true for the current generation of twenty-somethings, many of whom have found that life after graduation is far from smooth.
Dexter and Emma are both effortlessly sketched and the minor characters – Emma’s infuriating housemate, her wannabe comedian boyfriend, Dexter’s fiancée Sylvie – are memorable. It’s a book filled with humour and Nicholls never shies away from depicting his leads’ flaws. Their relationship is downright toxic at times and for anyone who has ever been in a similar situation, the novel can cut close to the bone. We haven’t even begun to talk about the late-on twist, which is sure to break hearts and elicit tears. (I had to put the book down for a day or two).
Although influenced by Thomas Hardy, Nicholls never lets misery overcome his story. Instead he has created a story, though often heart-breaking, is uplifting and life-affirming. Not just one for women but for anyone who’s had a bad job, missed opportunities and loved the wrong person. The film adaptation, released in 2011 and starring Anne Hathaway, met with mixed reviews. No such disappointment is likely to arise for a first-time reader. One Day is a true delight.
Photos c/o look.com.au, fanpop.com