Imagine a birds eye view of your life on one certain day of every year for the past 20 years.
That’s the premise of David Nicholls novel, One Day. It came onto my radar via a preview for its movie adaptation, which opened last week. The film stars Anne Hathaway, whom I adore, and is the kind of “relationship dramedy” I particularly enjoy. Men call them chick flicks, but I can occasionally persuade my husband to watch one with me.
Because I’m a reader first and foremost, I never see film adaptations of novels without having read the novel first. Actually I’m
a little totally obsessive about that. So I ordered the paperback and tucked in.
I was disappointed. The novel starts out with Dexter and Emma’s first meeting in 1988 after their college graduation. In every subsequent year for the next 15 years, one or the other of them is in the depths of despair. Nobody can seem to get their act together, emotionally or professionally. They continue to dance around the fact that they care for one another and keep hooking up with all the wrong sorts of people while continuing to pretend they are nothing more than “best friends.”
Nevertheless, even though I wanted to give them both a good swift kick in the pants, I continued reading their pathetic story, hoping that somebody might eventually come to their senses. And then something happens (which I won’t give away) that changes everything. Suddenly I’m interested, concerned, and actually caring about what happens to these characters.
Unfortunately, I had to read three quarters of the way through the book before I got there. It wasn’t that the writing was bad – Nicholls captured these two perfectly, and his witty British sensibility gave each of their characters a definite edge. Reading this one made me realize that I have difficulty understanding the whole concept of aimless youth, of wandering from relationship to relationship, of being unsure what to do with your time and talent. That’s just so foreign to my own experience of marrying at a young age, working, raising a family.
Could there be an element of envy in my clear sense of disapproval at Dex and Emma’s waffling about life? in the way they continue to meander about trying on love affairs and careers like I’d try on clothes in Macy’s?
Honestly, I don’t think so. I’m just a mother hen at heart, I guess, and want everyone to settle down and make something of themselves.
And yes, I will go see the movie. Though I may take a girlfriend with me instead of my husband. I have a feeling he’d have even less patience with Dex and Emma than I!