Last Monday morning, I had just finished reading the book One Day by David Nicholls and was so upset that I wanted to write something about it right away. This was surprising to me because I've been disappointed by some novels that I've read lately and yet I had no desire to write about them. For me, reading is such a personal experience and I prefer to share my thoughts on books that inspire and move me rather than those that don't.
So what is it about One Day that infuriated me so much? If, to paraphrase what Proust said, every reader is actually the reader of himself and that the book is only an instrument that allows the reader to learn something about himself, I had to step back and think about why I was so upset with this book. The first half of the book was funny and engaging and I thought the premise was very unique so it can't be that bad, right?
Let me backtrack to Sunday when I got this book (and no, I have not seen the movie adaptation). I was excited to be outside after spending stressful days dealing with a painful right eye which turned out to be a scratched cornea and I had to refrain from wearing contact lenses for awhile. I went to a used bookstore to exchange some old books and immediately went to the beach. And there I was, with my book and my little picnic of hummus sandwich, iced tea, and Kettle chips, happy as a clam.
Later, while reading One Day, I found myself frowning and getting irritated. Still I kept on, waiting for the two main characters to do something about their lives and their relationship but when it did happen, it was so anticlimatic that I wasn't even interested anymore. And let's not even talk about the ending, which I felt was so contrived and pointless that I was only glad when it was over. But more than bemoaning the fact that I just wasted a few hours of an idyllic summer day on this book, what does all this have to do with me, as a reader?
I must admit, one thing that really bothered me about the novel was the lack of character growth. It was frustrating to read how the characters made the same mistakes over and over again in the span of two decades. Which then led me to realize something that's been at the back of my mind lately, that on this month, its been exactly 9 years since I moved to this country. And that what I'd have wanted for one of the characters to ask himself so many times in the course of the novel are also those I want to ask myself:
How much have I grown since I moved here? What have I learned from my experiences?
These are difficult questions. I'm not even sure if I'm up to asking them. And yet, I must.