From looking at the cover of David Nicholls’ best selling novel, One Day, it is hard to imagine the scale of the story hidden in between the 448 pages. Often dismissed as chick lit or a trashy romance novel, One Day, offers a glimpse into the lives of two people, afraid to confront their feelings. Nicholls focusses on the raw human emotions of two people trying to figure out their place in this world and sets this against the backdrop of London (including Walthamstow) during the late 80s and early 90s.
The novel is based around a series of events that unfold every year, for twenty years, on the same day. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, the book’s protagonists, meet at the University of Edinburgh on their graduation day, 15th July 1988, St Swithin’s Day. In a playful and hedonistic attempt to make their final days as students count, Dexter and Emma embark on what they think is just an uneventful one night stand. However, this one action ends up changing the course of their lives forever.
What makes this book so compelling is that David Nicholls carefully balances laugh out loud moments with the sinking emptiness that hits all twenty somethings at one point. It is the feeling that despite having been given all the best opportunities, it is still unclear how to make use of them or how they can benefit – something that many job seekers today can relate to. Dexter and Emma are portrayed as real individuals who, like anyone will make mistakes and do bad things. This is what makes the reader love and hate them in equal measures and at times it is hard to resist the urge to throw the book at the wall in sheer frustration when the events spiral out of control.
David Nicholls doesn’t just leave you with a feeling of helplessness. Throughout the roller-coaster of events that unfold within the novel, Nicholls evidences the importance of living in the moment and begs the reader to question how their lives are being spent.
From the disappointment of rejection, to the yearning for a better life, One Day, is a bitter-sweet love story which captures the essence of a time. David Nicholls carefully crafts the narrative, offering a unique approach to the romantic genre whilst demonstrating his talent as a writer. This book will not only offer a glimpse into 90s Walthamstow, it will make you see dating in a whole new light. Lets just say, you don’t want to be an Emma Morley.
Words: Grace Molan