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8/26/2011

One Day reviewed: Read it and weep

Cover of the movie tie-in edition paperback

Rarely do I get angry at authors for doing something unexpected to storylines, but as disappointed as I feel right now, I can't think straight. Over the last days I read David Nicholls' One Day and it seriously led me to the question of what happened to romance. The genre. Maybe it has something to do with its stale stereotypes, but over time it seems to have gotten used and abused by everyone clever enough to hold up a pen. Loss seems to be the strange denominator of many of the books in the realm of romance novels at the moment.

Once upon a time, it all started with knights, saving maidens from the hands of the dragon somewhere around the dark medieval times. Now it's chain smoking drug addicts, who, for a reason nobody can relate, just can't bring themselves to commit to another human being until they finally do - but then something else happens. The end. It's called contemporary romance. I normally don't lose my way into this genre, except in the form of romantic comedy, but I don't usually read modern romance novels. This one came highly recommended by Nick Hornby. Never again.

What writers of romantic fiction traditionally do is, they create some sort of attraction <chemistry> between two protagonists, then stall the reader, maintain the attraction in spite of adversity and thereby indicating some sort of feeling of providence between person A and person B.

Now, the thing David Nicholls adds to this formula is that about 3/4 into the story, he finally gives the reader what he was longing for, the two get together and become a couple. Unexpectedly, the author doesn't allow the reader to enjoy it for a second, quite the opposite, he immediately dismisses the whole thing as a trivial relationship with all it's mundane problems. Sure, Dexter, the protagonist is now happier with Emma, but unlike his first wife, she is not a cheating, snobby dumball. So, we, the readers, are not that surprised and remain underwhelmed.

But Mr. Nicholls (who is in desperate need of some really angry emails), made me read more than 400 pages, leading up to that great moment, and then, manages to immediately disqualify their relationship by showing us a fighting, discontent couple, scarred by their everyday lives. This is what it boils down to after everything. Ordinary. Why the hassle?

I am seriously not mad about the tragic things happening to those characters, I realize that the genre has certain demands, but, what I seriously want to understand is Mr. goddamn Nicholls' point of view regarding relationships. Explain that to me.

Take a pick, as a writer, you either chose this genre, because you have some kind of affection for it and I then may happily assume, that the coming-together of those two protagonists is meaningful, and romance per se has some meaning for you as well, fine, but why write something with the pretense of meaning - to dismissively throw in our faces?

After the long will-they/won't -they barren run, they end up a not-so-happy couple. Meh.
Maybe they would have broken up if circumstance didn't have a say in it. Who knows.

What's even more disgusting is the ridiculous attempt to mobilize the PS, I Love You fan crowd again. Yes, we noticed that. They will happily open up their wallets and enjoy all nihilism thrown into their faces. Damn, I opened up my wallet, too... But I didn't enjoy it!

I really can't bear the horrible desolate hopelessness those kinds of stories spread.
Life itself is not that cruel.