I don’t usually review the movie adaptation before the novel, but his time I finished the book after the movie. A few weeks ago I wrote a review of the movie One Day after only having read half the novel, and his week I finished the book. The arguments I made for the movie still stands, and there’s no doubt the book was better than the movie. But I will stay away from making this another movie review, and try to go over what I liked (and disliked) about the novel.
I really like that the story takes place on one day every year over 20 years. Of course it does tell us about some things that have happened between each time we meet the characters, but that information is nothing more than what is necessary in order to follow the relationships they keep and the jobs they are working on at the time. By doing this we are made privy to the information we need in order to make it a cohesive story, while still being able to follow their lives.
I also appreciate that the characters are flawed. Many fictional characters are, so it’s nothing revolutionary, but I appreciate it still. When reading a novel, especially one concerning a romantic relationship, there’s nothing more frustrating than the entire thing becoming sappy and clichéd, so by making their characters get in the way of their own happiness there’s a lot more plot development to keep the reader interested and it never gets to be too mushy and romantic. The form of the narrative helps with this, by leaving much of what happens for the rest of the year to the imagination. In addition you get the story told from both Emma and Dexter’s perspective simultaneously which makes it possible to change perspectives when the author wishes for things to appear ambiguous.
I don’t have much criticism, but there are a few small notes. My biggest complaint is that at times the gaps between each time we get to see Dexter and Emma interact with other people are too long. It might just be me, or the fact that the author is great at writing dialogue, but I felt bored through some of the sections of the novel where the dialogue was sparse. I also think that despite the narrative being different and letting you fill in the blanks, it does hurt it a few times. During the period in the middle of the novel when Dexter and Emma have a falling out, there is a lot of time that goes on with almost no interaction between the two, and it feels weird in some ways to go back to their friendship after the absence.
My favourite parts of the novel are, just like the movie, the parts at the end of the story. I love sad endings, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that I was most invested when reading the last section about the anniversaries of Emma’s death and how Dexter was handling them. I also like everything from their first day together in 1988, especially how it’s interwoven with the grieving process in the last few chapters. Lastly, I like the scene when their friendship gets back on track at the wedding.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable book. I am not sure I will reread it, but it was definitely worth reading once.