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One Day    by David Nicholls order for
One Day
by David Nicholls
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley meet and become friends the day they graduate from Edinburgh university. Emma had grown up in the north and came from a middle class background, while Dexter came from wealth and privilege. She had noticed him on campus several years before and developed a crush on him, but she was too quiet to be on Dexter's radar until they suddenly met and spent all night and the next day together, talking. Their story is told in mostly one day segments, starting on July 15, 1988 and taking place on July 15th each year. However, we learn a lot about what's happening to each of them as each year's anniversary arrives.

Emma is the serious one, graduating with joint honors, 1st class in English and History. Unfortunately for her, there aren't many jobs available in 1988, and all she can find is a position as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant. Her parents insist that she find a job, any job, since they don't have much money. Her career continues to improve, though, since she does her best in any job she takes on, and she advances to a better job teaching after a couple of horrible years waitressing.

Dexter, on the other hand, raised to wealth and privilege, doesn't know what he wants to do. He travels for quite a while, then finds a job as a television presenter, introducing bands to audiences of young people. He becomes quite famous. There is a lot of partying after work, which leads to his drinking and smoking more and more. His mother, who has had a stabilizing influence on him, dies too young, when he is just in his mid twenties, and he begins to drink even more heavily after her death. He doesn't have much respect for the job he's doing and as the years pass, Dexter's star falls, while Emma's rises.

The writing in this book is wonderful. Even hearing from these two characters only once a year, we come to care for them and want them to succeed, especially Emma. She is a delightful character, speaking her mind to Dexter, and giving him the criticism that those closer to him over the years are afraid to voice. Dexter is popular and has no difficulty finding beautiful women to spend time with, but Emma won't allow him to take advantage of her the way he does those women. When Dex and Em spend time together, they have the sort of serious conversations that he never has with other people, and she tries to be a good influence on him. Emma seems to know that if she allows physical intimacy, she will lose his friendship, and Dexter values her friendship.

The book is funny and tragic at the same time. It's interesting to view this relationship over the years, one day at a time, and that day always in midsummer, when the weather is warm. Unfortunately, we can't always agree with an author on the direction that a story should take. Towards the end of the book a horrible event occurs that almost ruined it for me. I was so upset that I had to stop reading, and it took some time before I could pick up the book again and finish it. I'm not sure why the author felt the need to end this story the way he did, but my main criticism of the ending is that we really didn't have any warning.

Some sort of foreshadowing should occur before a traumatic event so close to the end of a book, and this was just an unforeseen shock to me. The book is good, but readers should know that the ending isn't what they may be hoping for, or at least that something unexpected is going to happen that's upsetting. Other than that, the book is really good.

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