Even at quite a young age, I loved When Harry Met Sally. I loved the idea that two people can dance in and out of each others' lives as acquaintances, friends, lovers, and enemies, and maybe, just maybe, end up together. The easiest way to describe One Day by David Nicholls is to say that it's a British version of the Nora Ephron modern classic that spans 20 years yet only looks at one day per year of these two star-crossed friends' lives. But that would be doing this novel a disservice. One Day is not only a story of two friends, but also the story of how each individual overcomes personal demons and comes into his or her own. Sometimes the arc of their lives intersect, sometimes they do not.
Emma and Dexter meet on the day of the college graduation in 1988. They both feel an attraction towards each other, but their lives are quickly moving in two very different directions, so they choose to remain friends instead of embarking on a surely doomed relationship. Emma, a distinguished scholar, ends up working in a tacky Mexican restaurant for years instead of unleashing the political literary guru inside her. Is she stuck in this dead-end job because of the recession as she proclaims, or is Emma herself lacking in talent or determination? Dexter, a mediocre student, launches on a world tour only to fall into a lucrative yet short lived career as a television personality upon his return to England. Will he remain an overnight sensation or will his hardpartying and womanizing ways be his downfall? This is only the beginning of each of their lives. Peppered with nostalgic pop culture references, Emma and Dexter experience 20 years of personal growth, failure, career changes, and life changing events, all while remaining a part of each others' lives. While a bit archetypal and predictable at times, I found both Em and Dex's journeys to be entertaining, and their interactions so very real.
Verdict: One might think that 20 years of will-they or won't-they would get boring, but Nicholls' storytelling device of revealing only the events of July 15 of each year kept me turning pages, often in frustration over a missed encounter or the rabid desire to read more about Em and Dex's sexually frustrating trip to Greece. Don't expect a stuffy literary masterpiece when you pick up this novel, but do expect to be completely absorbed and invested in the events and outcome of this lifelong friendship. And if that's not enough to convince you to read, a film version starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess is slated to be released in 2011.