Monthly Archives: May 2013

One Day, David Nicholls (Hodder, 2010)

Featured in online newspaper ‘Arthur’s Daily Book News’
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One Day

Dex & Em; Em & Dex. The couple get together on 15th July in 1988, the night of their graduation. On the same date, over the next 20 years, we visit the two protagonists in a non-linear, and almost epistolary, narrative style, reminiscent of Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Dexter Mayhew, now a television presenter, lives a cavalier lifestyle and thrives upon a cocktail of sexual affairs, drugs and alcohol. As a reader, one of the most difficult decisions will be whether or not to feel sympathy for Dexter, who finds difficulty in dealing with the pressure of fame and the eventual fall into obscurity.

Hard-working Emma Morley battles confidence and self-belief in her dream of becoming a successful writer; meanwhile, she finds work as a primary school teacher and has an unfortunate string of hopeless boyfriends.

You will find yourself desperately hoping that Emma and Dexter will be together, a couple who are simply meant for each other. Nicholls’ writing expertise shines through in this masterpiece, which will tug at your heart strings and leave you with a tear in your eye. By the way, try to avoid watching the movie adaptation beforehand, in order to avoid spoiling the twists and turns of this emotionally turbulent novel.

Nicholls more than establishes himself as a master of romance fiction with One Day, simultaneously displaying his great sense of humour, which will have you laughing out loud. This is more than can be said for Ian, one of Emma’s boyfriends, and a relentlessly awful comedian.

I feel that One Day would have benefited from a more consistent use of the present tense; at times, the story lost its emphasis, whilst the flow of the normally effortless narrative was disrupted, as a result of it slipping into the past tense. Nonetheless, this is one of the finest romantic-comedy novels of the century, which, in the style of Nick Hornby, and High Fidelity in particular, also gives us an educative look into British life in the 90s. One Day – original, hilarious and heartbreaking – is destined to become a classic.

4.5 books

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Filed under Comedy, Romance

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (Black Swan, 2008)

‘Thanks for the beautiful review […] all best and much respect.’
Markus Zusak, 2013 (via Twitter)

The Book Thief

Narrated by Death – not something that can be said about most novels; however, Zusak pulls it off wonderfully. A dry sense of humour, short and blunt sentences, as well an interaction with the reader are all characteristics which make Death the perfect narrator for The Book Thief.

The book thief is Liesel Meminger, a German girl, who is delivered to the house of Hans and Rosa Hubermann at the start of the novel. En route, she encounters Death for the first time, following the loss of her brother. We are told that they will meet each other on two further occasions.

The first book stolen by Liesel is a gravedigger’s manual which she gathers up from the snow after her brother’s burial. She goes on to steal several others, which she studies religiously; she later learns to read and write, with the aid of her Papa, Hans, with whom she shares a very close bond.

We get a better idea of the mysterious Hubermanns, when they selflessly take in and hide Max Vandenburg, a Jewish fist-fighter. Liesel develops a close friendship with Max, who is likewise a victim of Nazi persecution. The literature produced by Max for his friend Liesel truly enforces the novel’s emphasis on words, particularly in regards to their strength and importance at a time of great oppression and loneliness, where many people desperately desired to escape and rebel.

One of those who rebels is Rudy, a school-friend of Liesel, who, one day, dresses up like Jesse Owens and sprints through the streets of Molching. His affection shared with Liesel, and his constant pestering for just one kiss, makes for a beautiful, yet heart-breaking love story in The Book Thief.

Zusak places us in Himmel Road, at the centre of Nazi influence in Germany, allowing us to witness the suffering of innocent Germans, both at the hands of the British, who bombard the city in air raids, and of their fellow countrymen, who march shackled Jews through the streets to concentration camps.

My only real criticism would be the use of the German pejoratives saumensch and saukerl, which I felt lost their meaning through overuse. However, I feel that with this gem, Zusak has produced one of the most excellent novels of our century – sheer brilliance and originality – and one that I would steal, given the chance.

4.5 books

4 Comments

Filed under Drama, History