Tuesday, August 03, 2010

One Day (by David Nicholls)

Entertainment Weekly went crazy over this book, so when I needed an audiobook for a drive to L.A. and back, I downloaded it. And I was really really loving it, for the most part, until about 2/3 of the way through it.

The premise is that the author dips into the lives of two characters, Emma and Dexter, every July 15th over the course of 20 or so years. The characters are vivid and believable (even the supporting characters) and there is some great detail and very solid writing. It's like really good chicklit (though written by a dude, so we call that "literary fiction" I guess, feh.) But then came the 2/3 mark, which I'll get to in a minute.

One criticism I've read is that when the chapters begin, the author doesn't give us enough background about what has happened in the intervening year, and expects us to fill in the blanks. Well I actually had the opposite issue--I thought the author filled in the blanks a little too much, and should have included important information more subtly, instead of in large chunks of exposition. That would have been, to me, part of the fun of the book's conceit--picking out the little clues that tell us what's happened.

I also thought that it got a little ridiculous how many important events in the lives and relationships of these characters happened to fall on July 15th. It felt like every July 15th had some kind of critical importance, and again, this seemed to lack subtlety. Then I got to one day that seemed like it would just be an average day, and I was like, well, I guess as long as we're done with the Major Events always happening on this day, I can---oh my god, ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME? Because there came another Major Event, and this was one that seemed really calculated to be manipulative. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but it really kind of ruined the book for me on several levels (including the "suspension of disbelief" level). And then came the long, long, long final 1/3, wherein I no longer really cared about the characters at all.

This sucks, you know, because I was really loving the book and would have been endorsing it enthusiastically. But not so much, when all was said and done. Still, a lot of people love love love this book, and it's been enthusiastically reviewed. So your mileage may vary.


Blogger jen fu said...

I picked it up because of the EW rave, too! I'm in the middle of reading it now, and finding it terribly charming. You know, so far.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous mo pie said...

Come back when you're done! I'm curious to know what you think!

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

I really wanted to like this book. I'm a total sucker for books with structural conceits and/or books that you know will be made into romcoms. But I just couldn't sustain my affection for Dex (if indeed I ever had any) through the whole book. And I totally know what you mean about the WTF moment 2/3 in. I'm a fast reader and was gliding over what felt like a ho-hum passage. . . I think I actually had to flip back to reread to make sure I'd followed what was happening.

1:56 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Yeah Dex was way too good for Emma. And the WTF moment was really really WTF!

11:13 AM  

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