Review: One Day by David Nicholls

 It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morely have only just met.  But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another.  Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day – July 15th – of each year.  Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

When we first meet Em and Dex, they are freshly graduated from university and despite knowing of each other for the past four years, it is on the eve of Dex’s departure that they finally meet. Em has been quietly crushing on Dex for years, and although he pretends otherwise, you know that she was always there in his periphery.  Em is  your typical independent, left-wing, gonna-make-a-difference kinda girl. The complete opposite of Dex, who “wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph.” What do they have in common? Chemistry. They are drawn to each other in ways that they cannot grasp or comprehend. Despite this chemistry, their lives take them in separate directions. However, they never lose touch, and we see how they manage through the years, and get a glimpse every July 15th, from 1988 to 2007.

In their 20’s, Dex spends most of it looking through the bottom of a glass but he manages to become a presenter on British television. Em is overqualified and unsatisfied with everything she ends up doing. She’s not happy, and this comes across in her demeanor and the men she chooses. However, along come their 30’s and they end up doing a bit of a switch. Em finds success as a primary-school teacher then goes on to become an author, writing children’s books. As most women do when reaching their 30’s, she becomes more confident and bold, changing her outward appearance for the better as the years go by. Dex, however, is no longer employed and he embraces an early mid-life-crises of sorts. His drinking has also become quite a problem.

Despite being opposites, what exists between Em and Dex is a connection they can’t define, nor can they let go of. Despite the distance and the passing years, their friendship is always on the cusp of falling apart or turning into something much more. What really got to me with these two, is that they seem to accept their relationship as is. They are best friends who care deeply for each other, but they seem understanding of the fact that it’s all it might ever be. A friendship.

However, there is more than friendship between these two. Every romance you read, you have that defined moment that brings the couple together. This was probably the first time ever, I was not looking for that definable moment. I didn’t need it. I experienced that moment every time Em and Dex met up. You can feel and see, the truth of their relationship just under the surface, and how much they love each other. There exists for them, a bond that only a lucky few of us will ever experience.

“What is that stuff?” he said.
“Factor thirty.”
“You might as well lie under a blanket.”
“I don’t want to overdo it on the second day.”
“It’s like house paint.”
“I’m not used to the sun. Not like you, you globetrotter. You want some?”
“I don’t agree with suntan lotion.”
“Dexter, you are so hard.”
He smiled, and continued to watch her from behind his dark glasses, noting the way her raised arm lifted her breast beneath the black material of the swimming costume, the bulge of soft pale flesh about the elasticated neckline. There was something about the gesture too, the tilt of the head and the pulling back of her hair as she applied the lotion to her neck, and he felt the pleasant nausea that accompanied desire. Oh God, he though, eight more days of this. Her swimming costume was scooped low at the back and she could do no more than dab ineffectually at the lowest point. “Want me to do your back?” he said.
Offering to apply sun cream was a corny old routine, beneath him really, and he thought it best to pass it off as medical concern.
“You don’t want to burn.”
“Go on then.” Emma shuffled over and sat between his legs, her head resting forward on her knees. He began to apply the lotion, his face so close that she could feel his breath on her neck, while he could feel the heat reflecting off her skin, both of them working hard on the impression that this was everyday behaviour and in no way a clear contravention of Rules Two and Four, those prohibiting Flirtation and Physical Modesty.

One Day is one of those books that I thought I knew where I was going when I opened the first page, but by the time I closed the book, I ended up somewhere completely different, if not unfamiliar. As much as I bawled like a baby in parts of this book, it is also very funny and witty with a lot of great one-liners. This book, for me, was a reminder that life doesn’t always take you where you want it to go. That no matter where you start out, it’s rarely where you end up… no matter what your social or financial standing is growing up.  It reminded me that you need to find happiness where you can, and it is usually found in little things.


5 thoughts on “Review: One Day by David Nicholls

  1. I read this book last year and it is easily one of my all time favorites. I laughed and cried. Like you, I was not expecting the story to take the direction it did. WOW Great read for sure!


  2. Anya says:

    I watched a movie, and LOVED it. Was weeping like a baby. Great story, as heartbreaking as it is.


  3. deb24601 says:

    This book has been on my bookshelf for a loooong time so with your encouragement I might be brave enough to pick it up. Will you be available for handholding, Gina?

    Great review! xoxo


  4. Elena says:

    Great review, Gina, as always! Can’t wait to check it out xo


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