Sunday, 11 September 2011
Book Review: One Day by David Nicholls
I've been sick in bed with flu this week, so some time after the rest of the world, I found time to catch up and read One Day by David Nicholls.
It is very readable novel, and captures elements of an era perfectly. A generation older than myself, the characters nonetheless were a vehicle for a bit of nostalgia. Nineties throwaway culture such as Shed Seven, Kula Shaker, late-night extreme sports TV, the onset of mobile phones, and the nay-sayers who claimed they would never succumb. The description of the CD changer in the boot of Dexter's car definitely caught me with a wry smile on face.
Was the book any good? Certainly thousands of people seem to think so, given the reviews out there. Personally I think people might just be having a meander down memory lane, pointing at the scenery in their near past, and saying to themselves "I remember that!" Exactly as I have just done here.
However, does it's readable nature, and tapping into a bank of common memories make this an important work? I would have to disagree with all people claiming the brilliance of this novel. In getting caught up with the atmosphere, they are overlooking the fact that the story is, at best, not-very-original. In fact, it felt to me very much like a rip-off of Cecilia Ahern's Where Rainbows End. Which is just yer basic honest chick-lit, not trying to be anything else, but with a far better twist in the story. Now of course that book is one that the Guardian-reading masses really can't admit to having read. I'm not going to go down the 'reaction to male writers versus female writers' route. It would be interesting to know if V.S. Naipaul had any thoughts about One Day! But I think the chances of him reading it are pretty slim, even if it is written by a man.
Then you've got the perpetual near-misses which serve to keep our protagonists apart, thereby prolonging the agony, and functioning as a plot device. Even Thomas Hardy never had this amount of tragic near-misses in any one novel. IMHO less is more with things like that. Of course in this book, they are the whole story.
Plus, let's be honest Dexter is a truly hideous character. He never convinced me that he was Emma's soul mate. She was somewhat witty, intelligent, with a social conscience. He was mean and shallow, even during his "nice" period. It just felt like she wasted most of her life waiting for him.
So One Day by David Nicholls,the book that has a nation in its grip. It's a Bridget Jones for blokes. Fine as a holiday read, but it failed to make my heart go boom.