One Day by David Nicholls is essentially a boy meets girl story that spans twenty years. Cocky, handsome Dexter Mayhew meets earnest fellow student Emma Morley on graduation night and they end up kissing in her room. What follows is the story of a friendship with a not-so-hidden subtext, a friendship groaning with missed connections and opportunities not taken. When things are on the up for Dexter, Emma is toiling away in a greasy Mexican restaurant, pining after him as he goes about his glamorous life as a youth TV presenter. When things are on the up for Emma, Dexter’s life is hitting the skids. Will they ever get it together? Are they actually right for each other? Is love really about the right person or is it about the right moment in time? These are the questions Nicholls asks and I found myself tripping over myself in my haste to find out the answers.
Nicholls takes in family, friendship, work, love – all that rushing and striving that characterises the life of twentysomethings, the big, important events that happen in your thirties, the bewilderment of lives that, at forty, haven’t turned out exactly as you planned them in your romantic, idealistic teens. This book has an epic feel and yet it is a study of the mundane and the ordinary. It is always the little moments in our lives that make up the whole and this is something that Nicholls captures perfectly.
One Day has the power to make you laugh and cry as though you were watching bits of your own life played back to you: the cringey moments, the painful bits, the bewilderment – yes I have to say it again because I think it is bewilderment that David Nicholls writes best. His characters struggle to get a grip on the lives they find themselves leading once they leave the warm, cosy bubble that is university and I think that this is something many of his readers will be able to relate to. The suddenness of wedding invitations that fall with a luxurious thud onto the doormat one by one with escalating frequency once you hit your late twenties, the shoals of salmon being poached frenziedly for wedding receptions and so on and so forth. If you’ve ever been to university, left it and started ageing, I guarantee you there will be bits of this book that strike a chord with you.
The bottom line, then, is that this is the first book I’ve read in ages that I’ve really savoured. I read it quicker than I’d have liked to and I was sad when it was finished. Not a page of it bored me and whenever I stopped reading I found myself itching to pick up where I left off. It’s an easy read but its psychological insight is acute. I will definitely be seeking out more books by David Nicholls and I can’t recommend this one highly enough.