Friday, November 18, 2011

A brief book review: "One Day" by David Nicholls

One DayOne Day by David Nicholls

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where do I begin? This book is breathtaking, a profound representation of life, tragic and weird and unpredictable as it is. Nicholls chronicles two characters' intertwining journeys with such attention to detail, character, and emotion that I was staggered by its realism. A brilliant character study (of both its main characters, and even the ancillary players -- with spot-on dialogue), the prose is artful, whimsical, hilarious, and spontaneous. His chosen structure of zooming in on one particular date across two or so decades was genius, for several reasons. Many of these dates were not milestones; instead, they were markers of the mundane -- of life's "betweenness" -- times between great triumph, loss -- illustrations of transition, angst, and often confusion. In my opinion, this contributed to the book's profundity, slaying tragedy, and, again, its ability to capture "life." Read this book. You will be changed.


Update 12.22.11: There are spoilers in the comments section! Be warned! (And sorry.)


  1. I did, and I wasn't (changed). But thank you, I definitely agree that the writing is good, it was everything else that I was underwhelmed by :)

    My review: One Day by David Nicholls

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  3. I liked your review. Here are my thoughts!

    I guess I didn't think Nicholls was setting up as clear a dichotomy: here is a pure love, here is everything that gets in the way. There was little purity in Dexter and Emma's relationship (even though it resolves -- temporarily -- in domesticity and stability).

    I thought their romance, magnetic attraction, enduring connection -- whatever you want to call it -- was intentionally subjected to the kinds of whims, chaos, fate, and other misguided life choices as everything else, no purer, no more mystical or immortal. Yes, it gets toxic; yes, Dexter calls up Emma for gratification, rather than out of deep caring. Which is why I felt that Emma's death was so brilliant: after they finally get together, it rings in the end of idealism, their contentment -- which (I thought) was out of place in the novel.

    Yes, I cried when Emma died; I mourned the loss of her thoughts, dreams, etc. (idealism), and the loss of something stable (marriage, idealism), and the tragedy of Dexter as a character, left to live now on his own. Her death tells us: these are the imperfect people we've been dealing with all along. Don't forget that for a moment. And yes, neither of the characters was entirely likable -- but they were likable enough, and this was realistic. But I guess I prefer that, since, in the end, I read it as a story about life, that was only secondarily about love, and the individuals who fall in and out of it. Maybe I was projecting meaning that wasn't there? In any event, it had a profound effect on me, possibly because (who knows) I related to Emma, or I could draw on my own experiences in checkered relationships. But that's just me.

    Thanks for sharing your review!