Due to the fact that I really, really, really like to know things, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had not previously heard of David Nicholls’ One Day, even though it hit the shelves in 2009 to rave reviews. Nick Hornby (of About a Boy and High Fidelity fame) – whose books and short stories I have devoured, whom I have seen speak, and whom I may actually be a tiny bit in love with – appears to be one of the book’s biggest champions; his quotes about OD’s greatness appear in such places as the dust jacket and Amazon.com. And still, I seem to have missed it.
How, then, did I learn about One Day? From a quite comprehensive list of Books That Will Soon Become Films, posted last month on NPR’s “Monkey See” blog. The film adaptation of OD is slated for release on July 8th. It stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. It looks fun. Also the book was on the “buy 2, get 1” table at Barnes & Noble. I decided to give it ago.
Somewhat disappointingly, after all that, I found One Day to be kind of middling. There’s definitely a lot to like. The story follows Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew from the night they meet – July 15th, 1988, their last night of university – and checks in on their relationship on July 15th every year for the next twenty. As with anybody you’ve known for a very long time, they have their ups and downs. Em struggles with self-confidence while Dex thrives; Dex sinks into alcoholism and depression while Em thrives. It’s interesting, it’s recognizable, it’s relatable.
That said, the book has many pacing issues. Pages and pages are devoted to Emma’s temporary employment at a Mexican greasy spoon, yet another of her jobs ends so abruptly that I had to turn a few pages back to make sure I hadn’t missed something. It’s too long – it took me almost 3 days to read the last 50 pages. (It just seemed…over.) And in parts it’s strangely reminiscent of Chick-Lit Past – Erich Segal’s classic Love Story comes to mind.
But of course I’m already over all of this, because my thoughts have turned to the movie version. Had, if you may remember, prior to my even having read the book.
I love Anne Hathaway despite myself. She’s so pretty, and she seems so nice, and she can sing a little. And I can see why she was cast for the role of Emma, because she’s really been at her best playing characters that shine despite a sweet awkwardness. Like Andy in The Devil Wears Prada, or Mia in The Princess Diaries. (I know nothing about Jim Sturgess, but if the casting of Dexter has followed the same rationale I expect he often plays extremely attractive British characters with a strong douchebag streak.) The idea that one can be loved despite all their pasts and imperfections and even the fact that they’re not all that hot is at the very heart of OD. It’s a very matter-of-fact love story, not a steamy one, and for this reason I am concerned that the promotional poster appears to feature Hathaway and Sturgess decked out in full 80’s garb, locked in an Alfred Eisenstaedt-style embrace. Except with significantly more tongue involved. Where can we even go from here? The book only stays in the 80’s for like two years – and as Monkey See points out, the will-they-or-won’t-they tension is basically the number one reason I was compelled to finish it. I feel the movie may lack such suspense. I still plan to see it.