Gemma Critchley: One Day

Posted on March 14, 2011 by


I’ve just finished the book One Day by David Nicholls. I posted about how much I was enjoying reading the book here, and now I’ve finished I’m penning a few thoughts on it. Don’t read below the cut if you don’t want to know what happens!

exploding dog drawing when will you let go


Okay, so I said before how much the book had gripped me, how much I liked the warm, relatable story and how well-drawn the characters were. A lot of people (via the comments on my blog and by Facebook) warned me that the ending was super-sad, soul destroying, even and had sent people into spirals of depression for days afterwards.

Okay, so I got to the bit in the book where Emma dies. And yes, it was sad to see our heroic, plucky protagonist come a cropper under the wheels of her bike in the rain on Lexington road, but I didn’t find it heart breaking. Instead, it felt like just another device in the story to illustrate its bigger, more significant point. I took this point to be:

You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.

Dexter could have given up entirely, could have completely let himself fall apart, but he didn’t, he picked himself up and got on with life (albeit after a bit of sketching out, and who can blame him?) but the main point is that he kept on going. He found strength, the people around him helped to rebuild him and he was eventually okay. The tenacity of folk in general never fails to astound me. Dexter, like others before him and others still to come, kept going and he found happiness, he found a new best friend in his daughter and the best thing of all was that even though the person he loved most in the world was gone, he had at least had the chance to know her and to love her and be loved back. I think the bigger tragedy would have been if they had never told each other how they felt and had then spent their days living to be 90 years old yet never having known that amazing bond that they were so lucky to discover. To me, the saddest part in the entire book was the letter that stayed inside the copy of Howard’s End on the German girl’s bookshelf for 40 years, unopened by its intended recipient.

What happened to Emma was something that could happen to anyone at any moment. The best thing anyone can do is to speak their mind and make the most of now. Tell people how you feel. Don’t wait, there might not be time. As the book says:

“Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.”

One Day made me feel truly grateful for everything that’s ever happened to me and excited and filled with hope for everything that is still to come. I don’t think you can wish for more than that from a book, really.

Posted in: Gemma Critchley