London, Hodder & Stoughton, 2009, 435p
I have been meaning to read this book for ages - a so-called romance of our time. To me, it seemed a little like Persuasion, full of secret desires, longing glances, and characters with the inability to express their emotions. But whilst I love Persuasion (have I mentioned it is my all-time favorite book), I found David Nicholls' novel lacking.
One Day is about two young graduates who hook up at the end of their degrees. A friendship develops, and their story is told through extracts of their lives, taken from the same day every year. (It is not, as I had expected, about them reuniting every year on the same day).
Emma is the intelligent, creative type; Dexter is brash and seems to rarely think of the consequences of his actions. Yet they love each other deeply, and their friendship remains strong despite arguments and sexual tension. Emma takes a while to peak - struggling through waitressing jobs in London, trying to write the great novel she has always dreamed of; whilst Dexter lands a job hosting youth television shows, and falls in with the celebrity crowd. As you might expect, Dexter finds himself getting less and less work just as Emma starts to find success - it is a rather predictable plot, but is an easy and entertaining read.
I love the structure of the narrative, seeing their worlds through the same day every year. Some years they meet up on that day; others they aren't even talking. In spanning twenty years, you see how things change - friends and lovers come and go, careers peak and trough, and the things you cared about in your twenties seem less important in your late thirties. It feels very realistic and therefore reassuring, portraying the kind of things that normal people experience whilst growing up.
Of course, as much as they deny it, Emma and Dexter are completely perfect for each other. I wanted to feel an elation when they finally got together, but just felt frustration that they had wasted so much time. I guess that is the point. But One Day will never compare to Persuasion - perhaps it is about context, as in the early 19th century, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth wouldn't have found themselves in situations where they could talk about their feelings, whereas Emma and Dexter definitely should have admitted their love for each other much sooner! Honesty is always the best policy.