I’ve read this one with four other friends and was the only one not giving it a two. I actually gave it a 4 out of 5. I read it during my holidays, the day I had to stay at the hotel curing a disgusting sunburn. André went off on a cruise of the islands and I had a marathon of One Day, back-to-back cheesy romantic comedies on the background and all the Coke Light I could drink. Actually… it wasn’t such a bad day.

The five of us had some heated discussions about why it was so bad or so good and one thing seemed clear: One Day is the type of book where you need to recognize yourself and your own personal history in the story to be able to appreciate it. You need an Emma or Dexter in your past or present or else they just come out as annoying, self-centered people who move towards a predictable end after what seems a not all that romantic relationship.

For me, from the moment Dexter and Emma meet in their early 20s I was completely engaged in the book, in a way that I hadn’t been for a while. The characters felt real (even when Nicholls puts then in less-than-realistic situations) and his humor had the right dose of self-deprecating and English-black, just the way I like it. This particular description of Emma’s college room seemed to ring a bell with a lot of people around the web:

She had that arty girl’s passion for photomontage too; flash-lit snaps of college friends and family jumbled in amongst the Chagalls and Vermeers and Kandinskys, the Che Guevaras and Woody Allens and Samuel Becketts. Nothing here was neutral, everything displayed an allegiance or a point of view. The room was a manifesto, and with a sigh Dexter recognised her as one of those girls who used ‘bourgeois’ as a term of abuse.

Replace Kandinsky with Klimt and Beckett with Sting and that could be my room during high-school…

The story spans between their early 20s and 40s and being half-way myself, I could also related to how their lives veered from their best laid-out plans. There was once a discussion on Bookcrossing about what would be the name of our autobiography and I said “An Ode to Plan B”. Change is good and I’ve come to appreciate a healthy dose of the unexpected as well.

There were several reasons why I didn’t give it a 5/5. No, it wasn’t the explosive end. I rather liked the end – not the event itself, but how it was described, especially the mix of past and present in the last chapter (sniff!). And no, it wasn’t because I couldn’t see what such different people saw in each other. It was rather because some elements were just too contrived for a book I loved for how real it felt, especially the curious inversely proportional career paths.

I’m looking forward to reading Starter for Ten, which many people seem to think it’s even better than One Day.

Finally, this is the perfect book for a bit of “what’s your favorite”:

Favorite day: Dexter’s letter from India
Favorite secondary character: Dexter’s mom
Favorite scene: disaster at fancy restaurant
Favorite teary scene: disaster at fancy restaurant
Favorite funny scene: family parlour game

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Other thoughts: Farm Lane Books; The Avid Reader’s MusingsThe Literary StewThe Captive Reader; Bart’s Bookshelf.

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