Book Club book #12: One Day

This'll probably be the last time that I can hide behind a Book Club book as a blog post. Since this book (which I finished reading in mid-July) and the meeting which followed for it, no new book has been picked, and I haven't heard much out of the other members. It might be safe to say that Book Club is going into a long hibernation, or an indefinite hiatus. It makes me a little sad, seeing as Book Club was one of the only things that kept me in regular contact with its members (it seems hard enough to keep in touch with non-work friends at my age without some kind of activity in common), but, such is life.

After this, I should really get to writing about my trip to San Francisco, and my speaking at SpringOne 2GX in Santa Clara. That long holiday was the first time I had gone outside of the little country of New Zealand in over 5 years, and the time before that was just a quick hop over to Melbourne, Australia, which is so close and was for so short a time that it barely counts as international travel.

That, and any other things I wanted to blog about should come more easily now that the conference is over. I effectively put a lot of my life on hold because of it, and it's affected so many of my hobbies: I haven't uploaded a new video to YouTube since June, programming (Thymeleaf) had effectively ground to a halt, I haven't really read any new books since this one, and as a result my 'to do' list has just been growing and growing.

But now 3 weeks after my holiday, I've started to hit my stride and start doing things for myself again: I did just release a new version of the Eclipse plugin this week, I've started reading Catching Fire, in preparation for the second Hunger Games movie coming out in late November, and I'm getting back into writing (as is made evident by what you're reading right now). I've even started writing on another sort of long-form storytelling service, called Hi, and wrote my first 'moment' there about it now being October, in what is turning out to be a really good year for me. You can find that post here:

For now, the book.

One Day

Book, $9.99 USD on Kindle, written by David Nicholls,
One Day cover

At first glance, One Day seemed to me to be a love story. A very long-spanning love story though as the 'gimmick' with this novel is that we only get a glimpse of what is happening in each of the main characters' lives for a single day of each of the 20 years that this story spans. The day is always the same one - July 15, St Swithin's Day - and to me it slowly became less and less of a love story and more and more of a life story.

The 2 main characters, Emma and Dexter, start together, but as they each tend to their own lives, we get a glimpse of the paths each of them are going down, whether it was what they had planned from the beginning, and how they deal with the circumstances each of them face throughout their lives. They remain in contact, and often spend that day not far apart from one another (reducing the number of back-and-forths and overall chapters in the book).

It's a little bit sad in that it's quite realistic: both Emma and Dexter start with those youthful aspirations after having graduated from university, wondering where they'll be when they turn 40. Then, as the story unfolds, we find that what each of them had in mind is not exactly what each of them ends up getting. It's realistic in that, as they age, they start to compromise their dreams/visions of the future for the here and now, something so many of us can relate to.

I mostly associated with Emma, not because her name also abbreviated to 'Em', but because she seemed so level-headed and 'boring' - compared to Dexter anyway who was an arrogant travel-the-world party animal whose only point in common with me is his gender. Emma's path was a much slower one, having to build herself up from almost nothing, whereas Dexter's path started with so much opportunity. The ups in their lives occur at different times and paces, but it's the downs that actually kept me interested in their stories, because when things start to really go well for any of them, it doesn't take a lot to have it taken out from underneath them.

I think the story kind of emphasizes that point over and over: nothing is forever, there is no fairytale in this love story. Despite having a book cover that looks like it's marketed at those who enjoy a good love story, it's really a story about 2 lives and the 2 people living them, just doing what they can with what they've got, flaws and all,

There's one part that really shined for me though where, mid-way through it, on Emma's side of the story, both she and Dexter are invited to a wedding and it just happens to be that age where all her friends were getting married.

They have started to arrive. An endless cascade of luxuriously quilted envelops, thumping onto the doormat. The wedding invitations. [...] Every week seems to bring another luxuriantly creamy envelope, the thickness of a letter-bomb, containing a complex invitation - a triumph of paper engineering.

The narrative kind of rants and raves for longer than is necessary, but I was enjoying every part of because that part of one's life is still very fresh in my own mind, so the additional wit and sarcasm that was put into those paragraphs was very well received :)

So yeah, don't get turned-off by the cover, or that it was made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway. I'm kinda glad I got to read this one for book club.

7 out of 10