One Day by David Nicholls This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 31, 2014
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"You can live your whole life not realizing that what you're looking for is right in front of you.

15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows?"

I picked up One Day expecting it to be a typical type of love story, but at W.H. Smith, I started reading it because I had seen it around so often and wanted to know what it was all about and why it was everywhere I turned. The first few pages captivated me so much and just like one of the review comments on the back cover said - by the time I finished it - I was left with "the hallucinatory feeling that they've become as well known to (me) as (my) closest friends"

There are so many moments that made me feel all sorts of things in this book, especially that Emma and Dexter's friendship intrigued me so much. They had stayed in touch for 20 years but it wasn't as simple as it sounded. It wasn't a cliché and it was so damn difficult sometimes along the way. They both led separate lives, met new people, had different plans for how they wanted their life to turn out but still everything they had going for them felt like it was missing something and that was each other.

I love that they're not two characters that you just know would click together. They're very different and don't agree on much. Dexter was the life of the party and he had an aesthetic idea of a lifestyle that he wanted to have. "He wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph." And I feel like that especially links very well with the way most of us are these days. I feel this urge to record things and I want to make my life into a work of art because that's such a fascinating concept. How you could make everything mean something without anybody telling you that's wrong or that's not how it should be done because there is no set way on how it should be done. On the other hand Emma has similar ideals when it comes to changing the world but she's also the introverted, feminist and human rights activist who loves politics and once called Dexter's dad a fascist over dinner. They're such an odd combination but they work. I don't know how but they do.

The book also shows the harsh reality many people learn to come to terms with and that's the way everyone changes as they grow older.

"No, this, she felt, was real life and if she wasn't as curious or as passionate as she had once been, that was only to be expected. It would be inappropriate, undignified at thirty-eight, to conduct friendships or love affairs with the ardour and intensity of a twenty-two-year-old. Falling in love like that? Writing poetry, crying at pop songs? Dragging people into photo-booths, taking a whole day to make a compilation tape, asking people if they wanted to share your bed, just for company? If you quoted Bob Dylan or T.S. Eliot or, God forbid, Brecht at someone these days they would smile politely and step quietly backwards, and who would blame them? Ridiculous, at thirty-eight, to expect a song or book or film to change your life."

"Finally, she loved someone and felt fairly confident that she was loved in return. If someone asked Emma as they sometimes did at parties, how she and [Dexter] met, she told them:

"We grew up together"

I can't imagine what that would feel like. To have the luxury to say that somebody whom you're still very close to was someone you grew up with. You've known for so long and still they haven't gotten sick of you. They had options, they went out and saw the world and travelled but they came back to you. And not just for the "lack of a better alternative" but because they realized that you are what they want or need. That's just fuxking wonderful. My psychology teacher once said something during a psychology tester session and it was along the lines of the fact that the majority of the friends we have now are only our friends because they happen to be there; we see them regularly either at school or at work and that leads us to thinking that we actually get along with these people.

But I had a few problems with that. Sure, some people I think I'm friends with now, I wouldn't be friends with if I had a wide selection of a choice, but I don't. You never have your pick from the whole world, you choose your friends out of the people you know at a certain time in your life when you live in a certain place, so your selection is the people around you. But the fact that if somebody had the chance to travel the world and meet many people from all sorts of cultural backgrounds and then come back to someone they met before they had seen all that and still feel the same way about them, there's definitely something there.

I'm struggling with summing up this goddamn point and I don't know why, the word arrangement in my head is just not cooperating with me right now.

But in context of the book, Emma and Dexter go on to lead their separate lives after they first meet each other and I feel like Emma expressed that feeling of happiness and frustration best here:

"And then she frowned, and shook her head, then put her arms around him once more, pressing her face into his shoulder, making a noise that sounded almost like rage.
'What's up?' he asked.
'Nothing. Oh, nothing. Just...' She looked up at him. 'I thought I'd finally got rid of you.'
'I don't think you can.' he said"

Their feelings towards each other had only gotten stronger over time and just when she thought she had finally got him out of her head and found someone else whom she was more content being with, he came along and unlocked the drawer of thoughts that she had locked up after it had seemed to her that they were definitely not going to end up together. After all, what were the odds?

And lastly, I felt like this one line described an entire mental and emotional state that I've encountered so much but was never quite able to phrase it right:

"The moment held a kind of glorious confusion."

Ah, this book was definitely a mini milestone and I know I'm going to come back to it a lot more in the future because it feels timeless. It's not a storyline with one specific and identified conflict, it's life, and that's just one mix of conflicts and moments and memories and ah. I loved it.

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theunsimpleminded said...
Jun. 11, 2014 at 8:31 pm
Oh my god. I loved your review for this book, that I haven't even read but will now, so much. I didn't even read the book but reading your review and what you felt reading this book made me love this book. Thank you for this review. I wish more movie and book reviews would express this much connection between the reader and the book. The quotes were awesome too. 
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