I must admit I was stumped a little when Tara Slone started off the Summer Reads segment I did on Breakfast Television by referring to my first selection, One Day by David Nicholls, as a “guilty pleasure.” After a very Catholic upbringing, I try hard not to feel guilty. And while some pleasures would undoubtedly bring on a bout of guilt (I can think of a few involving Friday Night Lights’s Taylor Kitsch), reading could never be one of them. True reading pleasure–the kind that supersedes socializing, favourite tv shows, tiredness and jobs-to-do, drawing you to your best reading spot with everything you need for some serious, uninterrupted reading time–is not easily come by, so why feel guilty? If you’re enjoying a book, forget about guilt, forget about what other people think, forget about what you should be reading and enjoy it.
One Day may not be the most literary of novels or original of love stories but the dialogue is punchy and the book is both readable and serious. The occasional corny line or bit of dialogue is overshadowed by great sentences, insight and solid characterization. But it’s the frame through which Nicholls tells his story that sets One Day apart from the usual romantic-y stuff. Upon their graduation from Edinburgh University, Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew spend a memorable night and day together. This date–July 15–marks the beginning of their friendship, and it is on July 15 for the next twenty years that we visit Emma and Dexter–wherever they are in their lives. Some years they are, by accident, together on this date. Some years they are barely speaking. Through loneliness and love affairs, sucky jobs and big breaks, personal highs and lows, Emma and Dexter shed some of the naive, idealistic, egoistic notions they held as students and learn what it means to tackle problems in real life and make their way in the world.
For readers who usually gravitate toward literary books, One Day is a good step to the side. It’s not too fluffy, with just enough scope and literary play to keep a bookish mind happy, but definitely on the lighter side of the reading spectrum. For those who like their reading plot and character driven, One Day won’t frighten anybody off–its larger, sadder themes sneak up on the reader toward the end. While the reading mode is emotional rather than intellectual, the clever structure provides just enough narrative newness to keep meaning happening on more than one level.