On my way back to Austin from my summer adventures, I read the novel One Day by David Nicholls. I read it in pretty much one giant gulp.
While I had toyed with the idea of buying the book a number of times–at both the airport and at Target–I didn’t do it until a European dude recommended it to me. Later, when I told him I was reading it, he said that he hoped I loved it.
Which is a very unusual thing for a straight man to say, or, at least, it would be an odd thing for a straight American man to say.
In America, One Day
would be termed “chick lit.” It’s in the pink ghetto of writing marketed to women, mostly because it deals with the emotional lives of people. In America, mass-market literature about feelings is pretty much the providence of women. I don’t generally see straight dudes reading books where the characters have feelings, but that could be because I live in the machismo-poisoned land of Texas.
If you’ve missed picking up the book, the premise is that Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley kind of hook up in 1988 at the end of their studies in Edinburgh. The book follows their friendship over the next 20 years, dropping in on both of them each July 15th, which happens to be St. Swithin’s Day. Sometimes there are big changes from year to year in each of their lives, sometimes there aren’t.
I really enjoyed One Day, although, in some ways, it was strange reliving tidbits of the 80’s. (In 1988, as Dexter rags on “that Tracy Chapman tape” I knew exactly how annoying and overplayed it was at the time!)
With the movie
of One Day
hitting American theaters today, it’s unlikely that you’ll read the book the same way I did. It’s unlikely you will be able to, say, project yourself into Emma’s shoes, as those have been already been cinematically
filled by Anne Hathaway.
If you see the film before reading the book, then it’s unlikely that you will substitute your own half-grown partyboy pal as a placeholder for Dexter.
It’s also unlikely that you will have your own wish-fulfillment fantasy on an airplane while speeding through the book, complete with an era-appropriate soundtrack dredged from your personal version of 80’s. (For me, that would mean “Disenchanted” by The Church
playing in your head while you are reading the book.)
Since I’m totally against spoilers, I can only say that I really enjoyed the book, until reading myself into the book came to a sudden halt.
With the movie coming out today, your mileage certainly might vary.
If you want other takes on the book, you can find them here, here, here and here.
It’s too late for my complaining to mean anything to anyone else, but they totally should have cast mumblecore queen Greta Gerwig
This is the song that was running through my head as I read the parts of One Day where Dexter is being a cokehead cad:
How do you know you were late to a book party? When the cover of the book you bought looks exactly like the poster for the film!
PPS: I forgot to mention it, but this is one of the few modern novels that is at all epistolary.
Reviews of the film have been HORRIBLE. Check out this one. Or Anne Hathaway defending her performance.