I don’t really feel like there’s much I can say about this book! I read it in the same year it was published, loved it, and have read it several times since. I lent it to friends and family, I bought copies as gifts, I recommended it to everyone I knew.
The concept could at first seem quite awkward and contrived. The story follows two people, Dexter and Emma, during twenty years of their lives. However, we visit them on just one specific day in each year – St Swithin’s Day. At first I thought this would end up requiring some ridiculous coincidences whereby they would always end up seeing each other on St Swithin’s Day, and somehow something interesting and plot advancing would just happen to occur on that day each year. However, it wasn’t really like that. Flashbacks were used regularly to fill the reader in on what had happened throughout the rest of the year, and some years the story would follow Emma and Dexter separately, just kind of checking up on them and where they were at in their lives just then. It’s very skilfully done, and really saved the novel from being a bit gimmicky and obvious.
I was pretty much completely absorbed from cover to cover. It’s wonderful! There were times when I laughed til I cried, and other times that I cried til I ran out of tissues. It’s incredibly readable and whilst it appeals to those who are a similar age to Dexter and Emma, I’m a 25 year old graduate and I felt that I face a lot of the issues that they faced when they left university. Nicholl’s prose is readable, accurate and insightful, and he knows when to crack a joke and when to bring a tear to your eye. Often these can both happen within a couple of lines of each other! Also the dialogue between Emma and Dexter is incredibly believable – there is nothing stilted or contrived about it.
Despite the will they won’t they romantic thread through the book, it’s not chick lit, although neither is it literary fiction. It won’t be winning any of the big prizes any time soon. It’s a social novel, possibly even a zeitgeist novel that is about society as much as it’s about the central couple.
It’s completely absorbing and engaging and smart and funny and I love it!