Saturday, October 29, 2011

One Day by David Nicholls

I don't know what to do about this review now. I read most of One Day in a state of love and admiration and the feeling that finally, at last, there is a book that understands my generation. I always looked for such a book but could never find one where the atmosphere was spot on. I found what I was looking for in One Day, not because of the story itself but because of the way the characters thought and acted and felt. I could see myself in this story like I've never been able to see myself in any other piece of writing.

First of all, they were lost for a really long time and I think that's one of the things that there is so much of. Because we don't have the obligations - legal or societal - to settle down at 20 we are allowed this period of discovering ourselves, of wandering, of not knowing where we're heading. It's easy to wake up around 30 years old and realize that this isn't where you want to be at all.

Then there's the way they're always just playing at stuff. Dexter is obviously always playing, at being cool and famous and young. But Emma is too, never quite belonging, never quite believing that she's up to the task.

This passage really rang true for me: Emma is on her way to an interview in a publishing house and she's accompanied by an aquiantance from college who got her this interview:

"They ride the next twenty storeys in silence. Beside her Stephanie Shaw stands smart, petite in a crisp white shirt - no, not a shirt, a blouse - tight black pencil skirt, a neat little bob, years away from the sullen Goth who sat next to her in tutorials all that time ago, and Emma is surprised to find herself intimidated by her old acquaintance; her professional demeanour, her no-nonsense manner. Stephanie Shaw has probably sacked people. She probably says things like 'photocopy this for me!' If Emma did the same at school they'd laugh in her face. In the lift, hands clasped in front of her, Emma has a sudden urge to giggle. It's like they're playing at a game called 'Offices'." (pp 237-238)

Oh, how many times I've felt this way! All those board meetings with a bunch of men in suits and now all these other meetings with public servants, so more men in suits. And women too actually, and all of them, irrespective of gender, seem to take themselves way too seriously. All those years ago, when I was young and ambitious, I would be asked to do things like meet with the company president and I'd think, 'but it's only me, why would you want to listen to me'. But I looked like I should know.

I guess the book made me think about how my outlook changed over the years. When I was younger; I would dress the corporate part but didn't believe that I belonged in that world, that I knew anything. I felt like I was faking it. Now, I dress and I act like me - no more suits, no more corporate behaviour - I'm the same person at work and at home and so much happier. Not everyone likes this, but I feel that I'm true to myself wherever I am and that's important to me.

I loved the way One Day was structured, I loved the writing, I loved the characters. I loved it all the way up until the ending and then I stopped. I hated the ending. (***SPOILER ALERT - HIGHLIGHT THE FOLLOWING LINES TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING***) I don't see why things had to be that way, I don't see how it made the story any better. In fact, I think it would have been better if Emma and Dex either ended up with each other period or if they ended up with other people and never got to find out if they would have worked or not. To me, that would have been more realistic and would have left the story as about two regular lives. I think the dying was too much. (***END OF SPOILER***)

So in the end, it's not one of my favorite books but I certainly loved reading it. Oh, and I think it'll make a great movie, can't wait to see it!

What did you think? If you haven't read One Day yet, did the ending ever totally ruin a book for you?


Kailana said...

I have to admit that I haven't really been interested in this book, but your review comes to the book in a different way and it actually makes it sound more interesting than I thought. That being said, it is too bad the ending doesn't seem to be working for anyone!

Anonymous said...

My reaction was the opposite of yours. I didn't fully connect with the book until the ending. For me, the ending is what got me fully invested in Emma and Dex's story.

Larissa said...

I understand what you mean with the ending. To me it felt more like the writer didn't know how to end it so chose this kind of Deus Ex Machina to avoid giving an ending either way. But I still loved that book, mostly for the same reasons as you ;-)

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Joanna, great review :) I felt very much like you did about One Day: if you can' relate to events or people, you won't enjoy it half as much.

The end was a cop-out pure and simple. Nicholls found the easy way out.

anothercookiecrumbles said...

I've been wary of reading this book, considering all the hype surrounding it. It does sound very very good though, and I probably should read it.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I hadn't heard anything about this book until recently and there is SO much praise! I thought the movie looked boring and rather depressing so I've been avoiding it, but I think I'm going to have to check it out now. Hmmmm--and definitely curiuos about the ending!