One day, David Nicholls – book review

Posted on February 12, 2011

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One day, David Nicholls

Beautiful, clever and moving, David Nicholls’ One day is more like living alongside two people than reading a book.

Twenty years, two people, one day. Em and Dex meet on their graduation night, July 15, right on the brink of their lives. A night of shared hopes, a night of minds laid bare, a night of what might be. Where will their paths lead? Will they lead them alone, or together?

Once a year, on the exact same date, we drop in on Em and Dex and see their respective lives. From the mundane to the life-changing moments to the depths of heartbreaking sorrow, we see it all in the one-day window of their existence.

Spanning the 20 years from post-graduation ennui to middle-aged plateau, Nicholls gives his characters strong, core personalities while deftly capturing the subtleties of becoming older. In a tale of two individuals colliding and continually ricocheting off each other, Nicholls shows the intricacies of the relationship between Em – bookish, ‘individualistic’, lacking in self-confidence – and Dex – handsome, arrogant, self-assured – as they change and develop, all the while reflecting perfectly the raw anguish of wanting somebody you cannot have.

With such a novel structure to the book, I half expected to feel left hanging at the end of each chapter – as if, after a year since last seeing the characters, I would feel detached and wonder what had happened in the interim. Yet while Nicholls on occasion deliberately did this, the overall effect was one of getting to know the characters in more depth than any novel I have read before. I felt I stood with Em and Dex in their moments of triumph, of elation, of despair. I felt their hopes and dreams, and watched as they became reality or dissolved with the passing of time.

To contain 20 years in less than 500 pages is a huge achievement, and a feat many would struggle to accomplish.  And if I could read the rest of Em and Dex’s lives, I would happily do so. I adored this novel.

David Nicholls | One day | £7.99

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Posted in: culture