Along with the colossal amount of success this novel received, there was the added expectations and success of its celluloid version. The format of this book is very interesting, unlike any other that I have previously read. The story begins in 1988 when two students meet after their graduation. Each chapter is a year about that very day – 15th July, for the next 20 years. Despite the confusing structure and fragmented storyline, Nicholls manages to present a storyline which fits perfectly in its own disintegration.
Emma and Dexter are intriguing characters whose lives are intertwined for two decades without there being much of a love story between them. The plot is based on themes of growing up, moving from the mindset of being a young graduate in the world with a mind full of robust ideas to becoming an adult who has learnt, compromised and made peace with their mediocre and simple life. The great expectations that encompass every new graduate are slowly faded into stars – one can see them but they are unreachable.
Emma’s character experiences a metamorphosis in which she has to compromise and come to terms with her life. It is the deep yearning of her character and her unrelenting passion for Dexter that makes her touch ground with many readers. Lust and friendship are both combined in her yearning as she begins to wish him the best and want him to succeed in his chosen path.
In contrast, Dexter’s life unravels in a fragmented manner detailing his drunken accounts of his failed television anchor career and series of relationships. Throughout the novel, his character is strongly juxtaposed with Emma’s, demonstrating their differences and similarities. The inevitable relationship that they end up in is no surprise to the reader as without each other, Dexter and Emma are hollow characters.
The ending of the novel, a completely unexpected twist is an interesting technique that Nicholls uses to augment his characters into the reader’s mind. It is a successful strategy and I commend his idea and presentation of the ending. It has been done in taste and, without it; the text would not be an outstanding piece of writing.
Overall rating: ***