ONe Day

ONe Day

Having recently graduated from university and finding that entering the real world loomed ever closer, this book instantly appealed to me. As the characters face the prospect of leaving the security of academia, I felt that the book immediately struck a chord as I too pondered upon what life after university would hold for me.

The two main characters, Emma and Dexter have just graduated in 1988 from university and muse upon what the future holds and the paths that their lives may take.  After four years of university and an infatuation with the handsome Dexter Mayhew, Emma Morley finally has a chance to be alone with him. But all does not go according to plan; Emma having bottled up her true feelings for Dexter for too long. With a large amount of optimism and a dream to do something that will change the world, Emma speaks of a passion and a dream to be involved in the creative arts; whilst Dexter, it seems, will meander through life, travelling and never really settling. 

Nicholls charts Emma and Dexter’s lives over the next twenty years, each chapter being set on the same day: 15th July – the date of their graduation, with a different year for each chapter. Emma’s initial hopes of changing the world by groundbreaking theatre or writing seem to fizzle out into a string of menial jobs, whereby Emma becomes the one searching for her path in life. Meanwhile Dexter, who at first appeared to be vague about his future, seems to have things more in order in his life.

 At first the book seemed to be a classic case of ‘will they, won’t they’ get together and a series of missed opportunities; but as I read on I soon came to realise that it was much more. Nicholls possesses the geniality of capturing a mere snapshot of a whole year in someone’s life in just one day. Yet as you read on, the characters in the novel become two people that you know as well as you would know your friends. It is a coming of age story, but one that is set over a much longer period of time.

The book has its darker moments of death; alcohol abuse, drug problems and sordid love affairs, but these seem to weave into the tapestry of Emma and Dexter’s lives. When Dexter falls from grace, it is always Emma that he turns to first and for a time this is how their friendship functions. Nicholls captures a sense of harsh realism here, yet these problems are subtle suggestions rather than explicitly described.

Without giving too much away, the ending is quite surprising – well at least it was to me!  It was somewhat disappointing, due to the readers’ connection with the characters that has been established by the end. But it’s not difficult to see why this great novel was adapted for a film – it has the makings of a rom-com chick flick, with moments of sadness. The novel itself however speaks so clearly of two interwoven lives that set out from university, fresh with ideas of an optimistic future and find that life is not always all you had hoped for.

By Victoria Parrin

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