From the writer of Starter For Ten and The Understudy we are given the critically acclaimed novel One Day, which just happens to have been recently made into a motion picture – a fate which seems to await most books with a moving plotline and reasonable popularity.
Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew spend a rather platonic night together after the eve of their graduation in 1988. Idealistic and headstrong girl meets rich, arrogant, handsome boy-who-has-a-soft-spot-somewhere-deep-inside is a story that seems achingly familiar. Yet it does, however, turn out to be an uplifting and different reading experience. Revisiting Emma and Dexter on the same day every coming year the author provides a window through which we can follow two people struggling not only with their relationship with each other, but also with their own successes and failures. It develops into an original take on the bildungsroman, and an occasionally frustrating read about lost opportunities and perhaps most prominently, bad timing. Nicholls uses the thought process so effectively in his story-telling that you find yourself wondering how different it all might have been had the two characters just been able to get inside each other’s minds. Thus it becomes a poignant take on human relations in general, and creates situations and circumstances of awkwardness and insecurity in which most of us feel familiar.
Maybe to call it the “ultimate zeitgeist love story” is to take it one or possibly even a few steps too far, but the fact remains that it is an immensely readable and rewarding book. The literary allusions and impeccable style throughout it all boils down to a compassionate story which is exceedingly well-told. The presentation of the story line really works, and Nicholls succeeds where so many people fail; in making the characters believable as humans. Fiction after all will never be anything else than imagination manipulated in order to provide a sensation of reality. If the author fails to somehow connect the reader with the characters the novel will soon become a bore, and not even the most delicate and immaculate descriptions of feelings or environments will salvage the wreckage. The trick in telling stories about people is to find a balance, and this Nicholls does perfectly. He succeeds in bringing something new and fresh to the traditional “boy meets girl” setup in creating persons who are actually believable.
Does the story need to be told? Maybe not. Does it merit reading? Absolutely. Will it brighten up your summer evenings? Definitely!
You know what we’ve read this summer? is an ongoing series of articles for OxStu Online, giving you our top tips on books of all shapes and sizes that we think you should be reading this summer. Check out the first review here, or check in soon for the next update, and if you have your own suggestions or opinions let us know in the comments!