Frank finally carved some time out of his busy schedule last week to record his thoughts on One Day by David Nicholls. I’ve not had time to manage his YouTube uploads, so here we are the following week.
I know what you’re thinking. “Seriously, Frank/Renee? One Day?”
Hey, I know, man. I thought that too. But I was pleasantly surprised with the book. I haven’t seen the movie, though. Maybe one day.
(See what I did there?)
So I’ll let Frank take over for a few minutes to let you know what he thought, then I’ll come back and add my own assessment. Also, before I forget, Frank asked me to tell you all that he apologizes that his accent started to slip a little in the middle of this production. He has been “spending too much time with Americans.”
Also, he apologizes for the times when his head is way up, almost out of the frame. We recorded on an actual camera this time instead of ye olde webcam.
Special thanks to my friend Amy who found that sweet Remington Rand Model Seventeen in her attic and gave it to me.
Over to you, Frank…
Thanks, Frank. Sorry about your face, buddy.
So, like Frank, this normally isn’t the kind of book that I’d read. I was, however, pleasantly surprised.
For one thing, I think the dynamic between Dexter and Emma is pretty enviable, and I’m sure that’s the point. While I really like that dynamic and I like that they didn’t always get along, I also question how realistic this is. A quick bit of background on me: I’ve had a male best friend ever since I was four. I think I was always looking for a brother (and then I got one, but he hates me, so…). Some of those friendships are obviously a lot deeper than others (I am presently still in touch regularly with 2.5 of my ‘best guy friends’). So bringing that background to this book was kind of interesting.
I totally believed Emma’s role in their friendship. In many ways, I saw a lot of myself in Emma (in an eye-opening way. As in, “Yes, I can be that inadvertently judgmental too, and that is exactly why people get so frustrated with me.”). This book made me reflect a bit too much, but I think much of that had to do with when I read it (I’ve been done with it for a while now; I just haven’t had a chance to write about it).
On the other hand, I wasn’t sure what to make of Dexter’s role. When they were younger, in their early-to-mid twenties, I believed that he genuinely cared about Emma and wanted to spend time with her, no matter who else was in his life — or hers (he always had a parade of women, and when he didn’t, they were waiting in the wings somewhere). I believed that he wanted to spend time with her however he could. As they got older, she remained his closest confidante and he actually talked to her about real stuff — life, and whatnot. But later — he was married and his best friend was still a woman he’d known since college. His wife didn’t necessarily take too well to that, but he didn’t care. He didn’t let it change the fact that he still talked to and spent time with Emma. And all of that is the part I don’t know about.
Is that realistic? I mean, it’s totally comforting to think that maybe your best friends won’t give you up some day when they find someone else they’d rather talk to all the time and spend all their time with. It’s comforting to think that they won’t grow out of the stage where they’re willing to make more than a minimal effort to see or talk to you, but I’m just not convinced that’s how it works.
What intrigues me about this dynamic is that it’s written by a man. I kept finding myself wondering how he could get the female character so right while making the male character so … not stereotypical, but maybe not exactly spot on (I’m totally open to male input on this if there are, in fact, any men reading it).
Maybe everything just comes down to how serious you are when you say you want someone in your life. Because that’s a commitment. So you can show up, or you can talk the talk, but flake out every time it comes to proving it. Dexter went through a period of being terribly unreliable. He couldn’t wait to shrug Emma off. He’d invite her to hang out, then say he had to be somewhere else. He’d invite her to go along, then immediately tell her why she’d be so uncomfortable and not have any fun.
And Emma would sit there wondering why he was acting like that and what had happened to him and why did he keep saying he wasn’t trying to get rid of her but then acting like he was?
So they didn’t talk for a long time. A few years, I think, which seemed believable. But again, I just didn’t know if I could believe that Dexter missed her. It’s something to do with not trusting that men experience emotion like that outside of their romantic relationships. I’m perhaps a bit too jaded for this book.
So I’m just going to skip to the end. SPOILER ALERT!
I’m sure lots of people got really pissed off when out of the clear blue sky, Emma just gets hit by a truck and dies. This is, of course, after she and Dex are married, which happens fifteen years after they meet. I’m sorry, but once you’ve been friend-zoned, you almost never come back out. You have essentially become a human form of a potato to the other person, and so I thought it was a little too convenient that they got married. Real life doesn’t happen like that. Real life means someone flirts with you and then disappears or starts dating someone or asks you to help him shop for flowers/presents/engagement rings for someone else. Real life means you invest way too much of yourself in someone who ends up marrying your cousin… or something.
I just can’t believe that there’s a reality where this wedding would have happened, and that’s my biggest beef with the book.
But David Nicholls redeemed himself in my eyes when Emma died. Not that I was happy when she died. I think I said something like “What the hell just happened?” and then checked to see if I missed something. When I realized that I hadn’t, I actually had something akin to a small panic attack for reasons I don’t wish to discuss. Her death and Dexter’s aftermath just hit a nerve with me.
It was, however, the perfect way to remind us that life is always one “F you” ahead of us. Dexter had never been very good at taking care of himself. He’d been a disaster for a while — drugs, alcohol, sleazy women. His mother died of cancer and could no longer take care of him. All of his relationships seem to fall apart. And then there was Emma. No matter what he screwed up, she was there. Even during the time they spent not talking, she thought of him quite a bit. It finally worked out for them and then Emma dies.
Dexter is alone.
He has taken Emma for granted.
He does not cope well. For a long time he does not cope well. But he finally has to learn to be on his own. He’s got to really figure out who Dexter is.
So I liked the ending. It makes up for the convenience of some of the other parts.
All in all, I liked this book, even though it’s not the genre I typically read. It’s probably great if you see life as one big romanticized to-do (except for when you get pissed off at the end), but the jaded realist might have some trouble with it. This review kind of makes me sound like a huge Debbie Downer. I don’t mean it like that. I just had a hard time with some of it given what I was bringing to it. That’s all part of the reading experience, and, at least in my opinion, is what makes reading fun.
Have you read this book? Seen the movie? What did you think?