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‘One Day’ by David Nicholls

Tuesday, 6 July, 2010

‘Have you read it yet?  You have to read it!’

My friends and co-workers had been pestering me to no end.  Apparently ‘One Day’ was the book of the summer, and it certainly seemed that way.  Glowing reviews of it were published on billboards and in tube stations, with accolades from Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons, and ‘The Guardian’.  Twenty-something commuters clutched it to their chests like a sort of manifesto, engrossed and oblivious to everything else.  So I stalled.

There’s a part of my nature which abhors mass popular culture.  It’s a remnant from my petulant teen years that I still struggle to shake.  I haven’t listened to the radio for the better part of a decade.  I’ve never owned a ‘Girls Aloud’ album, and the minute my favourite band sells out the O2 I know it’s all over for me.  I’ve never read ‘The Da Vinci Code’, ‘The Secret’, or any of the ‘Harry Potter’ books.  I don’t watch ‘East Enders’.

Now, I’m not particularly proud of myself, as I’m sure that I’m missing out on lots of enjoyable, entertaining things simply because I can’t relax, get past my snobbery, and let myself appreciate them.  Still, when I saw how much everyone loved ‘One Day’, it put me off in a massive way.  I came up with excuses not to read it.  I spent a week forgetting to put it in my work bag.  I got caught up reading Kristen Reed’s ‘The Ice Age’ instead (which, as it happens, was worth neither the time nor the money spent special ordering it). Finally, the nagging from people whose opinions I respect cracked me.  I caved in and started reading it.

I was immediately hooked.  For anyone who was as put off by the hype as I was, all I can say is this: don’t be.  This is one of those rare occurrences where the object of excessive praise is actually thoroughly deserving of it.  ‘One Day’ engrossed me, left me oblivious to everything else.  I started pestering my friends and co-workers to read it.  I read when I should have been sleeping, daydreamed about reading while I was at work, and kept missing my stop on the tube.

I’m reticent to say too much about the plot, as I don’t want to give anything away that would spoil the enjoyment of discovering this very special book for the first time.  What I will mention are the things David Nicholls has done exceptionally well.  The use of humour, for a start, is spot on.  Ironic observations about life, popular culture references from the past twenty years, and gentle sarcasm left me smiling with each page turn.  The characters are also extremely human.  They have flaws, sometimes painfully so, but they are endearing in a way that leaves you recognising bits of yourself in them.  I identified so much with the character of Emma that I actually wondered whether the author had been hiding cameras around my flat.

Most crucially, though, are the relationships ‘One Day’ creates.  This is not a stereotypical, cookie-cutter romance.  Emma and Dexter seem to loathe and annoy as much as they love and respect each other.  In short, theirs is a story that you will relate to, fall in love with, and which will leave you longing for more when it’s done.

(c) Megan Hunter

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