I just finished reading One Day by David Nicholls and having no plans for the next hour, I thought I’d write my review so that I could have it ready for putting up after I’ve done the third Looking Glass Wars book. I always get this odd feeling when I finish a book. I guess other people get it too, its a mixture of things and there’s no easy way to describe it because it depends on my experience with the book.
I always feel a sense of completion at finishing reading though, even if I didn’t get the ending or a didn’t like the book as a whole. Sometimes I feel annoyed that the book has ended because I was enjoying it so much or else the ending turned out to be an anti-climax, where more should have happened to bring closure. A part of me feels sad that I now have to leave those characters when they have become my friends and I won’t be wondering through the fictional settings any more. But there is a small part of me that knows I can return whenever I want as I only have to pick up the book again to be be back in that story.
I have a bad habit with the books I really really like. I’ll try and draw out the last set of chapters, so that it feels like the story is longer and I can spend more time enjoying it before I close the back cover. Then I’ll spend a few minutes thinking about the book, before moving on to the next. I’ve never been a fan of books that have won prizes and/or been famous, I guess because I tend to stick with one genre and don’t expand out to look at others. However, my main reason for this is because I’ve never been keen on fiction books that have a ‘real life’ theme to them. I read to escape from the stresses of life and find it hard to get into books that focus on ‘normal’ peoples’ lives.
Saying that though, I do sometimes come across these genre of books that I do actual like. Maybe its because I can connect with the characters and the stories are so well written that I easily get into them and find it difficult to stop reading. One Day is just that. I had heard of the book before I picked it up and people had told me how good it was. It just took me awhile to buy and read it as I was unsure if I’d like it. I try not to pick up a book and judge it there and then. I try and set my thoughts aside and read the first half, before deciding on it. I was hooked on One Day straight a way because I liked the idea behind it and I wanted to see how Nicholls had been able to write it.
Parts of this book are also very quotable and some great lines are said. So to stop this post looking like a mass of text, I’ve searched around for some of my favourite quotes with picture/photo backgrounds to go along side my words. It also means I won’t have to type out the bulk of the quotes I want to share and look at in detail.
Firstly, the cover for One Day -as above- is really eye catching and simple. It conveys the book’s subject of two people and the passage of time. I really like the cover because even though the faces are in silhouette you get the impression that they are good looking people, also that they are just about to kiss. I prefer original art work to book covers then stills from the movies based on them. I think this is because sometimes the adoptions can influence how the book is read and the covers just don’t like as good!
One day is the story of two people, Emma and Dexter, across twenty years, who try and meet up or make contact on the same day of the year- 15th July, St. Swithin’s day. The story starts with them in bed having meet after their graduation from university. They discuss what they could do with the rest of their lives and how they might make a difference in the world. After they part as friends, agreeing to stay in connect. From that point onwards every chapter is set one year on and we catch up with what they have been doing and we get to see the development of their friendship/relationship.
I could go on about all the different events that happen, but I feel like I’d be giving too much away and spoiling some of the twists. The effects of the events are handled really well and it doesn’t feel like they have been placed as obstacles before the characters, more like they have just happened through the process of life. One thing I really wasn’t expecting as I draw towards the ending was the sudden turn of fate that happens. It was always clear that the characters would end up together at some point, as the main plot is built around this idea. However, the unexpected ending really hits home the cruelness of life, also it fits in with the themes in the book and so doesn’t actual seem out of place on reflection.
The plot is very character driven and fitted around their actions. This works well because it feels very realist and reflects the choices that people make every day. The plot has a very real life feel to it with different events happening to each character. These events are a mixture of happy moments, sad/tragic times, personal triumphs, dreams coming alive and missed opportunities. It makes the reader question “what if?” in places too as the characters miss chances to get together or go down certain paths. I think everyone can connect with this and it allows the reader to question their own lives and missed things.
In some ways, it feels like there isn’t an actually plot to this book, because we are just following two people living out their lives. This creates a natural story because it doesn’t seem like you are reading fiction. It feels more like someone’s memories and the dating of the chapters adds to this. There is also the appearance of historic events in the background, which make it more realistic and gives the characters talking points. Most readers should know of these events as the readership is aimed at young adults.
The narrative of the story is third person and switches points of view from Emma to Dexter throughout the chapters. At times the tense also switches from past to present and back again. The shifts are done really well and there is no jarring or sudden jumps between the points of view. Often this is because Nicholls has his current character thinking about the other and so the changing narrative feels natural.
The characters are excellently written and remain three dimensional throughout. They go through a lot of development, which is important to keep up with the ever changing time span. They also reflect on their younger selves questioning their liking, disliking or support of things and how that has changed as they’ve got older. All the characters are very like able and easy to connect with. You also become a emotionally attached to them and because of the way the story is written, you start to feel like Em and Dex are your best friends and you feel everything along side them. This draws you in and you feel gripped to carry on reading to see what happens.
The background characters connect with Dex and Em because they are either family, friends or co-workers. Each of these character’s stories become part of Dex or Em’s stories and pop in and out of their lives, the same way people naturally do. All of these characters are just as complex and three dimensional. Some even have development and reappear as events unfold. This adds another layer to the reality of the novel and really shows how useful background characters can be.
There a lot of themes, but the main ones are friendship, family, relationships, death/lost and love. These are mixed in with the sub-themes of alcoholism, drugs, music, politics, literature and travel. All together these themes don’t overwhelm the narrative,which is a massive achievement because it would be so easy to become stuck down with so much going on! I think as they are spread out and kept in the background because of the year leaps, they become more like hints or suggestions. This works though because it just adds to the depths of the characters and gets the reader thinking.
To go with everything else contained in this novel is a whirlwind of settings. You would easily become lost if the chapters didn’t declare where the characters where. Really, it seems they go all over the world, but the bulk of the story takes place in the greater London area. It really does help having a central setting and it was also refreshing for me to read a British novel! We start in Edinburgh and do circle back to it later on, then move to Bombay, Greece, France and a range of UK places. We see fleeting glimpses of most of these places in letters or conversation, so the narrative doesn’t district too much. However, enough description is given to each place to bring it alive and they do appear to be suitable backgrounds to the characters throughout their lives.
It’s easy to see why this book has won awards and so many positive reviews. It captures not only twenty years of British history, but twenty years in the lives of two people, who are destined to be together but are kept apart by fate. I was unexpectedly gripped and got carried away by this novel and it really is a story that will make you smile, laugh and cry. It’s beautifully told,easy to read and you become unable to put it down. It’s also one of those books makes you want to re-read it straight a way!
One Day became a movie in 2011. Though I’ve not seen it, I know that Nicholls wrote the screenplay and adapted his book to the big screen. Luckily, he’s also a screenwriter and had previously written; Starters For 10 and When Did You Last See Your Father? He has co-wrote other movies, adapted classics to the TV screen and wrote a number of scripts for different British dramas. I look forward to seeing the movie at some point as I believe it is a really good adaptation of the book.
The last thing I love about One Day is that I could easily relate to the first half of the novel. Having graduated myself, currently not working and wondering what to do next, I found that I was able to sympathises with Em because I’m in her position. I felt that some of the quotes about living inspired me and made me want to actually get out there and start doing more things. I would so recommend this book to graduates and people who are in a limbo about their lives.
Overall, I love this book and can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it! I think its set to be a modern classic and for Lit students to studied it. So much can be got out of this book and there is so much to explore within the lines and between them. It’s odd how a book that is packed with so much, could work as well as it does, but the plot and narrative are excellent. The characters really do become your best friends because you feel so involved with their lives that by the time its all over you feel like you’ve lost them. I’d recommended this book to anyone because no matter what you enjoy reading, you’ll love this!