I'm a wreck. Floored. Gobsmacked. I feel like someone just punched me in the gut and backed over me with a car. Twice.
I just finished reading David Nicholls' One Day; and if the mark of a great book is that you have an emotional reaction to what you've read, it stays with you, and makes you question the very meaning of life, then this one is a classic.
Unbelievably, this book is only available from the U.K. - I got mine from Amazon.co.uk after reading a great review in Uncut Magazine. I just ordered three more to distribute as Christmas gifts to people who don't read this blog (don't tell!).
The book starts with a seemingly unpromising concept: we're to follow the lives of two students, Dex and Em, who meet on St. Swithin's Day (shout out to Billy Bragg!) and have a quick affair, as unpromising as the book's premise.
Each chapter represents a one-year leap in Dex and Em's lives; they discover what we know from chapter one: they're in love and - no matter what happens - they will always be at their personal best when they're with each other, even when they're seeing other people, getting married to other people, and outright hating each other's guts.
We have a feeling it's all going to work out, no matter what. Or will it? Note the foreboding quotes from Thomas Hardy...
Sounds predictable, I know. Sounds sappy, I know. Sounds like a terrible Julia Roberts movie (Runaway Bride II?), I know. Sounds like men need not apply. I know already!
However, the book - like all great works of art - isn't really about what it's about; Nicholls' writing is a witty, clever, and breezy read. It's only when you get to the book's remarkable postscript that you realize how difficult a trick that writing this book must have been to pull off.
It's stunning to me that a book with so many familiar conventions could shed so much light on the things we take for granted in our lives:
- That one, special connection with someone else, beyond reason, that most of us are lucky to feel just once or twice in our lives;
- The nature of loneliness and how it makes us settle for something less than our dreams;
- The difference between what we're like when we're young and what we become when we grow up;
- The cruel intervention of fate;
- And, not to put too fine a point on it, the meaning of life itself.
When the book comes to North America, it will almost surely become a terrible Hollywood movie starring Julia Roberts and Jude Law, not to mention an Oprah book club pick, which will make impossible for anyone to enjoy or to revel in its surprises for the first time.
Read it now or forever hold your peace.
The Kinks' Days: