I read One Day incredibly slowly, in a kind of episodic way in much the same way the book is styled. I read roughly a chapter a day, which was punctuated by the percentage gauge on the bottom of my new kindle.
The book is skillful in that it fuses a profound subject matter with a deliberately colloquial manner. Much of the book, actually virtually all of the book focuses on Emma and Dexter. Both are creatively documented – although I can help feeling Emma is written as a character who takes life’s hardships too easily. Maybe I’m putting too much of my own inflexion into the book but I struggle to believe she would neglect her first class degree for so many years purely for the authorial juxtaposition of her failure with Dexter’s success (although I am fully aware this happens.) Maybe it’s because you will on these character. It’s obvious that Dexter is portrayed as a bastard, yet not a bastard’s bastard if you know what I mean, more a influenced-by-money-and-status-kind-of-bastard, not a ‘I’m-a-true-bastard-of-bastardom’ kind of figure. In some ways it may have been great to add Dexter’s friends into the mix, and likewise with Emma. Again perhaps this is the serendipity of the book speaking out to us, that they only think of each other. Whilst I didn’t find the book excessively unputdownable I did appreciate the exceptionally meticulous approach to Nicholls’s twenty year study of English life. It’s a true skill to quietly drop a cultural reference in every chapter, but he skillfully adds this into the narrative.
The final pages, the reveal, is utterly mind-blowing because one feels it’s an ending that didn’t need to happen. Maybe Nicholls is the true bastard in the drama? I have often felt though that a great book has to have a tragic or awe-inspiring kick to leave its reader grasping for air. One Day, a book that is casual in its study of two people’s lives over the years hit its zenith in those final pages, using that wonderful technique of hindsight to allow the reader to brood over the destruction that frames the rather melancholy ending. It’s a intelligent book, not a great one but one that will draw in the punters in, for good reason too.
I have yet to see the film, but I imagine Anne Hathaway to have a devil of a job turning down that look-at-me persona she is becoming famous for. Hey, maybe I’ll even review the film when I eventually see that too.