I was into this book after the first chapter. The concept isn’t all that original – it’s an on-again off-again romance story about how two people’s lives intertwine (or not) over the course of 20 long years. But there’s still something special about the protagonists. Em and Dex, Dex and Em – you learn to love the way these two throw around their own names like that. Not to mention insults and compliments…
There’s something very familiar about the way Dexter and Emma interact – there are moments of intense frustration, and moments of intense admiration – quite simply, they are like best friends everywhere. (Only throw in a bit of lust and yearning in there, also.) I think this is why this book resonates so much with me. It completely captures the ins and outs of friendship – which should be at the heart of every great love story.
The thing that makes this novel really special, however, is that although it’s big, and cerebral, and epically romantic, it’s also…plain. Like I said, the concept is nothing new. Nicholls did something genius, though, when he decided only to let us glimpse these guys’ lives once every year. Because every momentous occasion in our lives does not happen on one day, the reader sometimes feels as though they’ve missed important events. Nicholls doesn’t leave it hanging, though, and the trade-off he makes instead is sweet: we get to see what the day-to-day looks like. Like I said – plain. To me, this approach makes the romance all the more profound. Catching up with Dex and Em but once every year meant we got to see how two very regular – sometimes boring, sometimes interesting – people became capable of true love because of those everyday things that happened to them.
For me, there was nothing wrong with this novel. It’s not my favourite by a long shot, but it’s beautifully and honestly written, and perfectly paced despite its spliced nature. I say: read it.