One fine St Swithin's Day in 1988, Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley meet cute, hook up and - in the way that most end-of-university relationships go - walk away in the morning promising to stay in touch.
Except that in this case, the two really do, and form a kind of weird best "friendship" that lasts them the better part of a couple of decades. Through the novel, we get a voyeuristic peek into their lives every July 15 as they banter, bicker, fight and make up - always with that electric charge of unfulfilled sexual tension between them.
Handsome, suave, hedonistic Dexter is the perfect foil for awkward, bookish Emma, who toils away as a waitress at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant for a few years while Dexter's star soars in the TV industry, helped along by his good looks and silver tongue.
As the years pass, the two gradually swap places, with Dexter succumbing to the price of fame and Emma becoming first a teacher, then a semi-successful published author.
This could have turned into a mawkish read, but David Nicholls avoids this by his use of non-linear time - we see only one day in their lives over 20 years. So we're not subjected to the kind of wistful glances exchanged over coffee cups or accidental hand brushings that friends who are romantically attracted to each other indulge in.
I have to admit that I had a wee sniffle when I first read this novel. The film doesn't pack the same punch, mainly because you don't get the feel for how funny and witty Nicholls' writing is. It's a cliché, but this is a book that will make you laugh, cry and wish you could knock some sense into Emma and Dexter.
It's so clear they belong together that it's painful to read about the missed chances, the bumbling mistakes and all-too-human miscommunications that keep pulling them apart. But that's what also makes their story so believable and relatable - because it's what happens to people in real life.
How many of us have let opportunities slip by because of youth, pride, ambivalence, arrogance or stupidity? How many of us have regretted that one moment when change could have occurred but didn't, because we simply missed the signal and took a different turn?
One Day advocates the message that the choices and decisions you make in life matter as much, if not more, than fate or destiny. It is a heartbreaking read, and one that I think appeals to both sexes - because whether you're a man or a woman, everyone has been or met an Emma or Dexter at some point in their lives.
If you've read One Day, what are your thoughts on the book?
Next week's book club title is High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby.
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