Book: One Day
Author: David Nicholls
Published: 2009 (Vintage)
You guys, this was so much better than I thought it was going to be. It’s funny! Hot damn, do you know how rare it is for a lit fic romance to not take itself so seriously? Or go in the opposite direction and stay so bubbly it’s like that diet Coke I dropped down like three flights of stairs the other day – basically all foam, no substance?
I mean I don’t have the exact statistics on me, but I feel pretty confident saying One Day is above average in that genre. (The full, fridge-chilled, can-didn’t-move-an-inch diet Coke. But not a Vanilla Coke Zero. It’s not THAT good.) Mostly because the two main characters have flaws that help them grow up and perfections that keep them stifled. Like, the girl is too self-conscious to rely on the good looks that everyone’s always telling her she has, so she concentrates on her artistic-y literary work and eventually it pays off because she becomes an author like she always wanted (of splashy teen books instead of Serious Fiction, natch). The few times she does use her looks, she ends up disappointed that they can’t get her nearly as far as she’d hoped (love affairs with her middle-aged married principal boss, a long-ish term boyfriend who is an unfunny standup comedian), and then she feels guilty about that and gets back to work.
The guy, her best friend since a one-night almost-stand their last day of college, sort of has the opposite problem. His good looks and charm let him race hard through life until he starts tripping over stumbling blocks of his own irrelevance and gets overwhelmed at trying to find something more substantial. He does eventually, but he never makes peace with what he has to settle for when he uses work rather than other people’s opinions to define himself.
And the narrative conceit of checking in on them both on the same day of successive years, using just the one date for each chapter, helps a lot in filtering out what could become way, way too much yearning or catalogs of mindless self-indulgence.
No, I don’t like how she [SPOILER ALERT] dies on her bicycle so abruptly after they get together. But that’s really my only complaint. And no, I’m never ever going to see the movie because if Anne Hathaway’s accent is as atrocious as all the reviews said, I won’t forgive her for bringing this book back down to my pre-reading judgy levels.