Theoretically, the structure and concept of the book “One Day” by David Nicholls is brilliant, but truthfully the novel fell short of my high expectations. Perhaps as the book was pumped up by many literary critics around the world, and sold so many copies I was expecting something much more clever than the book I ended up reading. For much of the novel felt forced as if the author was trying to be overly glib, and merely used the structure of the book to hit the reader over the head with his cleverness.
One of the biggest issues with the story is I felt that too much of the novel was missing. Sure it’s fascinating to look at two characters over a 20 year time span, but at the same time I fel time would have been better spent if the story was told in a more linear fashion. The reader never truly gets to understand why these characters are so obsessed with one another. Especially as with each forthcoming year Emma and Dex seem to drift further apart and become meaner and more uncaring toward each other.
An unfair comparison that keeps being made is how similar David Nicholls and Nick Horby’s writing is. On the surface it would appear that Hornby and Nicholls tell stories that share similar themes but in the end Hornby is better at pulling off different types of stories, but most importantly different characters.
I am not sure how many people have read his earlier work called “Starter for Ten”, but the characters of Emma and Dexter are almost eerily related to that of Alice and Rebecca. Emma and Rebecca could virtually be the same person, in that they both are idealists and share the same world views and cultural background. To this reader it appears that Nicholls took a fully formed character from another story and then reused her in the shape of Emma Morley. The same could be said for Dexter and Alice. While these characters may be different genders they are again virtually the same person. Both characters come from affluent backgrounds and the world seems to get handed to them without either trying very hard. Coincidentally both characters dream of being an actor or working in the television industry.
After all the drama of the story I felt that the biggest cop out imaginable was the ending of the story. It was like the author had run out of ideas, and was trying his hardest not to have a trite ending and in doing so created a story that was exactly that. For all its clever posturing, the story ended up feeling fairly pedestrian, and left this reader wondering why the book has such enduring popularity. Would I read the book again, no. Nor would I recommend anyone else dedicating themselves to reading it either. Would I try another book by David Nicholls, yes. I would not read another of his stories on the back of “One Day” but rather the book that I read previous to that in “Starter for Ten”. That novel is not as popular or as well known as “One Day” but “Starter for Ten” shows more guts, grit and determination and the heroic feat of being a well written novel that is more grounded in the experiences of real life. People say that finishing “One Day” is like leaving an old friend behind, and that the characters felt very much alive. Unfortunately for me I never experienced that with this novel as I did with “Starter for Ten”. All Nicholls’ genius and love for the craft of writing was pored into that singular work of fiction and he was unable to light that spark into the fictional world of “One Day”.