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Saturday, July 17, 2010

One to watch

Ploggers, I don't do this often, and that is why you should listen to me. There is a book you're going to need to buy, and you're going to need to buy it now.

"Wow," I hear you say. "Is it Audrey Niffenegger's latest, Her Fearful Symmetry? After all, you did love The Time Traveler's Wife."

No, Ploggers, it is not Her Fearful Symmetry. It was OK, but I saw one of the twists coming a mile off, and besides which, Niffenegger has a crap ear for English UK (as opposed to American English). When did you ever hear of an English person "petting" a cat, rather than stroking it? And would you ever say that you were "wanking off" over someone's shoe? OK, you probably wouldn't admit to it anyway, but surely, fellow Brits, we'd say "wanking over her shoe" not "wanking off over her shoe". As opposed to the Yanks, who would surely use "jerking off". But this is a minor, and masturbatory point, and not at all the reason for this Plog.

The book I'm about to recommend to you, I grabbed from the library shelf in a last-minute, "fuck it, I can't be bothered to stand here all afternoon and choose". It is David Nicholls' One Day.

I had read Starter for Ten (loosely set at Bristol Uni and loosely set around University Challenge - two good reasons for reading it) by the same author a couple of years ago. It was OK. Had a few funny moments in it, but was pretty forgettable, and I didn't really like any of the characters. So it was with pretty low expectations I took One Day home.

And over the next day or two, on my two-hour tube travel each day, its protagonists, Emma and Dexter, became my new best friends. Well not Dexter, he was a tit. But Emma was lovely. She made me laugh out loud. I would definitely have let her sit next to me in French lessons. The novel also has a brilliantly-sketched failed stand up comic in it, playing barely-disguised comedy dives I remember gigging at myself. And it is funny and clever and special and moving, and I refused to read the last chapter until I was away from public transport, so I could savour every last word. (Anyone who thinks they spotted me crying on the 7.30 a.m. train at Canning Town, that was probably my over-emotional twin. Ignore her.)

What does it remind me of? Well, a little bit like the Time Traveler's Wife - not for any magical hokery pokery, but because time itself is almost a character in the novel - the book is narrated on 15 July each year - and takes a snapshot of the characters' lives at this time. And of course, I did actually read it on 15 July, which made it even more special.

It's also very Thomas Hardy - letters which never reach their intended recipients, and fate playing its hand the way it will.

A bit Nick Hornby. Blokey humour. Shagging. Drugs. Fast cars.

It's a little bit Larkin too. Nicholls quotes him a couple of times, but actually, the line it brought to mind to me wasn't used in the novel - "What will survive of us is love".

Read it. Then read it again. Then put it on your shelf and don't lend it to anyone. They might not give it back.

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