One Day by David Nicholls has the sort of busy cover thats full of recommendations from authors like Tony Parsons and Nick Hornby. The Guardian love him too and the inside cover is full of platitudes from people I’ve never heard of like Jenny Colgan, Faye Ripley and Kate Mosse. In fact there seems to be a quote from every section of the Guardian newspaper, barring the Sports or Motoring supplements in there too.
It’s a concept novel, taking one day in the life of two people, Emma and Dexter, over a 20 year period. It starts and finishes with half a day at each end of the book in 1988 when the two main protaganists end up spending the night together on their university graduation. Emma is the worthy double 1st girl with aspirations, Dexter is the incredibly popular lad who scrapes a lower second in anthropology, the sort of chap who is more interested in how a job or career sounds rather than the practicalities of doing it.
Despite all of these things conspiring to make me detest the book before I’d even read the first chapter, I have to say I was won over. Partly by the well realised characters and basic humanity of it all, partly because after Kieron Gillen professed a hatred of Kular Shaker it was interesting to see the fondly mentioned but mostly because of Nicholls excellent way with our fair language.
This was a book group book and we did have a fair old discussion of whether the character were well realised (we agreed they were) and whether they were likeable (they both were to various different degrees) but for me the real pull was the language. Passages like this one just scream quality at me:
He ordered and then was off to the loo again, taking his second martini with him, which Emma found unusual and strangely unsettling.
It’s not verbose or overly complicated but it really sums up the situation of a chap taking a cocktail to the toilet in a restaurant superbly in my book. And it’s full of these little touches, Dexter calls one of Emma’s boyfriends “beard”, and its the sort of thing we can all associate with (or at least I can, I’m terrible with names). Although there’s plenty of tribulation in the novel, the underlying humour sees the reader through without thoroughly depressing him.
In many ways, despite the differences in style, subject, genre and pretty much everything else, One Day reminds me of something Douglas Adams could have written. The story is forgettable but the joy is in the little snippets and clever use of language.
Definitely worth a read, and its only three pounds something at Amazon too.