Saturday 3 April 2010
Dylan Jones: 'David Nicholls' book is the sort of thing you can't put down
It is, as they say, something of a sleeper. In the past two weeks, six people I know have said they've just finished reading One Day by David Nicholls, a novel that has been on my bedside cabinet for the past three months, and which I have just finished myself. The premise is a simple but effective one: two students – the delightful Emma and the appalling Dexter – at Edinburgh University have a post-finals fling on 15 July 1988, and the book picks up their relationship every year for the following 20 years.
It is very clever, and concertinas two lives into digestible nuggets that manage to propel you forward with little effort on your part. Because of the episodic way it's written, One Day is also the perfect bedtime book, encouraging you to read a chapter before you nod off, in the same way that some people read a Jeremy Clarkson column in one of his collections. However, like many people – like all of the people I know who've read it and recommended it – Nicholls' book is the sort of thing you can't put down, and I read it over a weekend, creeping upstairs to gulp down another chapter when I should have been downstairs preparing dinner or helping with homework.
The book is profound in the sense that it treats the minutiae of everyday life with respect, bringing to life even the dullest scenario. It is also based around such a small nucleus of characters that it makes it impossible for anyone to get lost. I remember being so confused when I was ploughing through Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow that I had to keep asking my wife who was who, and I'm fairly sure I didn't finish it (and if I did, I couldn't tell you what happened). In One Day, there is Emma, Dexter and their immediate friends and family – just enough, you might think, to make turning this into a screenplay a rather easier task than usual.
Well, Nicholls has just done that, and unless he's very unlucky, should have a huge hit on his hands.
Honestly, buy a copy before someone else you know tells you how good it is.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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