Like I said in my previous post, I have a really bad habit of watching film adaptations before reading the book; One Day is a classic example of this. I’d been meaning to read the David Nicholls' novel for ages and when my mum finally got round to buying it, she read it first!
As you’d expect, having read and watched both versions now I see that the book has been massively cut down to cater for the needs and timescale of a film. In my opinion, for that reason alone, the book is so much better – and so if you haven’t read it already, you need to make sure you do!
One Day is a novel spanning over 20 years telling of the friend/relationship of the two central characters: Emma and Dexter. Beginning with 1988 when the two met after their graduation from the University of Edinburgh, although the novel goes forward in time, it always reverts back to that one day – July 15th. Whether they are together, or apart, the book always seems to manage to bring both characters together and we are kept informed of what they are doing, the relationships they have and this makes us feel like a part of their everyday life.
“They spoke very little of their mutual feelings: pretty phrases and warm attentions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends.”
The book is split into four main parts: early twenties, late twenties (also split into Dexter’s and Emma’s stories respectively), early thirties and late thirties. The final part is entitled ‘three anniversaries’ and depicts three years of importance. Each part begins with a well-known quotation from literature and is a nice opener to what to expect, it explains well the relationship of the duo at that particular point in time.
“You’re gorgeous, you old hag, and if I could give you just one gift ever for the rest of your life it would be this. Confidence. It would be the gift of confidence. Either that or a scented candle.”
Emma and Dexter are two very different characters, and that is the reason why they work so well together and bounce of each other. Emma is warm and friendly, but always filled with self-doubt as she doesn’t seem to know what she’s doing or where she’s going in life. She’s the brains, while Dexter has the looks. But he’s also arrogant and one-dimensional, a stereotypical ‘Jack the lad’. He seems to wing everything in life – his job as a TV presenter, his relationships with a string of women...
“You’re obnoxious Dexter. I mean you were always a bit obnoxious every now and then, a bit full of yourself but you were funny too and kind sometimes and interested in people other than yourself. But now you’re out of control, with the booze and the drugs.”
As a reader you can’t help but empathise with the two, but at the same time you feel like you’re a third person in their relationship – you want to tell Dex to stop acting up, or give Em some friendly advice about making bolder and braver moves or risks. You’re a part of their arguments about morals, relationships and even scrabble – it’s almost like as you read, you’re very much part of their lives too.
The novel isn’t just amusing though and there is more to it than the jokes through (and I’m not just talking about stand-up comic, Ian); it’s compelling and compassionate and really evokes a number of emotions.
If you’ve seen the film but are yet to read the book, do it – you won’t be disappointed! Don’t be put off by the 400-odd pages either as it’s littered with anecdotes and letters shared between the two characters. This too makes us feel closer to them, reading their private exchanges throughout the years.
And on that note, I’m off to watch Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in action!