You’re going to read this book and know at least one thing: That the end won’t end happily or tied up in a big pink bow and that tissues will be needed. This is David Nicholls we are talking about here, where his endings are never simple nor do they tie together at the end to make the reader happy. No, the book is about the author and the challenge to the reader to believe – whether or not a story of a friendship between man/woman over 20 years can make it without sounding like a rip off of “When Harry Met Sally” or some other derivative, trite plot line. The story is gorgeous and IT IS believable. You can feel Emma’s frustration in her letter writing, the pooling of the grease on her nose and Dexter’s legendary trim backside and feel the heat of his hand on your ass. Nicholls knows how to capture that fine line of realism without being overtly descriptive and to not use the description as mere filler for the novel. The plot, the snapshot one day every year into the lives of these two people, is also incredibly clever. Watching Dex and Em (Em and Dex, together forever), grow up, fall in love and struggle with that idea of love over the course of 20 years is painful, hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Nicholls has a way with prose that you cannot put the damned book done – it’s like they injected heroine or crack into the binding of the book. I was so desperate to finish the book that I stayed in a black car in 95F heat while my aged mother was shopping because being 2 hours away from the book was painful. The night before, I was up to 4am because I couldn’t imagine falling asleep while there was more Dex + Em to get through. I finished the book in less than two days, reading at diners, coffee shops, parking lots, and until my eyes were bleeding from lack of sleep.
The reviewers who said this was chick-lit are wrong, it’s not even lad-lit. There is no happy ending and no moral or tale or lesson to take from it. The guy does not, for the sake of argument, get the girl. It’s, simply the snapshot of the lives of two very ordinary people and their extraordinary relationship. And it is also one of the better written books in the last few years. THIS, that feeling of having to finish the book before anything else was to take place is the feeling that all writers should aspire their readers to want to feel whilst reading their book. Writing in the last few decades has become almost unbearable dreck with a few jewels thrown in – particular in American writing. If you’re not writing some fake existentialistic-esque material with a vaguely catchy title, then you won’t be read. And that’s a shame because Nicholls, being a Brit, will be mostly ignored by the American audience who will attempt to liken him to Nick Hornby which is like comparing Jane Austen to a Bronte: There are similarities, yes, but they are vastly different. And if you don’t love it, then you are simply Un-American.