One Day in 24 Hours

Why are we such sucker for sad stories and desperately cling to anything of hope and nostalgia?


I do not know what it was that brought me to once again to endure walking in four inch heels going to Bibliarch Glorietta from the office because I couldn't wait to read David Nicholls' One Day. Ok, now that I think about it, it was a deep-seated sadness that causes me to revert to retail therapy, and what better way to treat sadness than a shiny new book?

It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

The 'one day for twenty years' reminded me so much of one of my favorite movies, 'Same Time, Next Year,' starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn, who had a love affair in 25 years, coming together only once a year, on the same date. I knew I had to get the book.


 At 4 AM of a Friday a week ago, just as I arrived home from a night around BGC with friends {who were, incidentally, reading the same book, too!}, I parked myself on the comfiest nook of my bed and started reading. At 6 AM, just as the dawn was beginning to come over me, I fell asleep with this book in hand.

It was 12 noon when I woke up and as what you might have guessed, I toted this book around the house during the rest of the day, read while having brunch, while someone did my nails, while in the loo, while dinner and you know the rest. At 2 AM of Sunday, I was done with the book.

The novel reeked of maudlin, all through out ---- Nicholls probably knew there were some of us who exist to live for sadness, and for missed chances, for pining over lost books, for trips we need to take to find ourselves, and letters we never have the guts to send.

As I always muse to my friend R, my favorite conversations about books are always with her, that there are those books from which you learn, there are those that take your heart and rip it out, there are those that leave you hungry and thirsty for life and ready to take on every single challenge, there are those that make you want to strangle one of the characters, and then, there is that one book that paints too vivid a picture that you are jumping word to word --- careless, and unwitting, because you cannot wait for all the words to unfold right before you. One Day is THAT book. I couldn't wait.

I was trying to decipher why I couldn't let go of the book and why  despite the tall stack of books waiting to be read perched on my bedside table, I was able to breeze through 400-something pages of prose. Was it the writing? I could hardly quote nor highlight anything. There were no monumental, life-changing lines, no mind-boggling quandaries. True, it was written like a movie ---- and if anything else, one of books' purpose in life {rather falling low in the list, as 'education' is first and foremost} is to entertain. And highly entertaining, this is.

The author lets the reader in to the twenty years of friendship and twisting and turning, every July 15th since 1988. Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley met right after college, had a bit of a rendezvous but eventually fallen smoothly to becoming . And by friendship, I do not mean constant togetherness, Hallmark-ish images or whatever cheesy definition can pop up for the word. Dexter, who was rather pompous in the beginning of the book, revealed to be a kindred soul as he writes to Emma from India, where he's gone after teaching and getting kicked out of school:

Em, you're young, you're practically a genius, and yet your idea of a good time is to treat yourself to a service wash. Well, I think you deserve more. You are smart and funny and kind {too kind if you ask me} and by far the cleverest person I know. And {am drinking more beer here -- deep breath}you are also a Very Attractive Woman. And {more beer} yes I do mean 'sexy' as well, though I feel a bit sick writing it down. Well, I'm not going to scribble it out because it's politically incorrect to call someone 'sexy' because it is also TRUE. You're gorgeous, you old hag, and if I could give you just one gift ever for the rest of your life it would be this. Confidence. It would be the gift of Confidence. Either that or a scented candle.

Dexter to Emma | Bombay, India
July 15, 1990

One notable aspect of the book, or rather the story was how life could play out for an individual. Emma stuck with a job at a crappy {or seemingly crappy} Mexican restaurant and eventually got together with Ian Whitehead, the un-funniest stand up comedian the world has ever known. I found myself getting into constant parallelisms with Emma, as the story shows how painful it was to be living with someone you can't stand anymore, or being at the receiving end of someone's spite because you walked away. Or being the protagonist in an ugly story. By the middle of the story, I was silently cheering on Dex to take her away from the smell of salsa and the joke that was Ian Whitehead.

But the story takes on a late turn of goodness, just after Dex gets divorced to the beautiful, I-thought-the-love-of-his-life Sylvie Cope, and in Paris, nonetheless. Images of cafe au lait cups, little French cafes and my imaginary French lover came tumbling on my mind for days. The writing in this particular part of the story was so descriptive, it was not hard to imagine the streets of Paris, and myself in it. It was a sigh of relief as Dexter and Emma finally gets together, as a couple, as she leaves her Parisian boyfriend, after years and years where Emma sat in the background while Dex jumped from one woman to another.

I guess, what captivated me the most about this book was its timeline-d chronology. As it turns out, Dex and Emma did not meet every July 15th as I had originally thought. Rather, the book touched on whatever was happening to the two of them, regardless if together or not. Some of the chapters go back to events that did not happen on July 15, some predict. Some do not say it at all.

This is a romance novel, folks. Just in case that much is not obvious, it's a story of two people whose chemistry is apparent all throughout the book. I have a thing for being caught in a limbo -- of just being stuck with that level where you would still have to guess what the other person is thinking --- there is no promise of forever, there is no comfort level. At all. As it is with the thread that holds the love, the struggle in life all through out the book broke my heart a couple of times and made me cry whilst reading.

And yes, there is not a happy ending. However, just like Same Time Next Year, things do find a way to work themselves out.

Just like the novels I have chased in the past, One Day is set for release this 2011, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess:


Photos from IMDB



One Day is not the best novel I have read, simply because I didn't have that 'hey-this-is-the-best-novel-ever' feeling right after I read it. But it's such a good read, if only for playing with my emotions and making my tear ducts work overtime. And too, if there was a movie that seemed perfect for a movie adaptation, with not much changes and incredibly big-screen ready, THIS would be it.



Watch this with me?