I wasn't sure how I was going to enjoy it. The premise being that the book spans the lives of two people over many years. I didn't know how many years but it would be many and it would be that these two people would probably never hook up. Yes. A man and a woman: one day, July 15th, every year, we would read about them, for years.
But. It worked. It worked wonderfully. I absolutely loved this book. It was funny. It was sad. It was sad in places that I could never imagine to be sad. It was powerfully emotional that my eyes would water reading it. And it was written by a man? Call me a feminist, if you must. I just couldn't believe a man could write such powerful words from a woman's point of view.
It was maddening. But not in the way you thing. Or, I guess, in the way I was thinking. That stereotypical "moonlighting" tv show: with the sexual tension of 'will they or won't they?' But it really wasn't like that. Not exactly.
Emma and Dexter. Dexter and Emma. This is a novel about the two of them. How they met. How they lived. Starting July 15th, 1988, when they graduate from university. It's British. So no "the university". Just "university". :)
The book is divided in sections by years: their early 20s, late 20s, early 30s, etc. Nicholls writes for Emma *and* Dexter, so we know each character. But it's really Emma that I feel we get to know more, and is, to me, the main character of the book.
Emma is sweet and beautiful. She meets Dexter at a graduation party. Dexter comes from a wealthy family and is good-looking; the 'gets-whatever-he-wants' kind of guy. Somehow, they hit it off and from that moment, sparks fly but Dexter is definitely not ready.
Their lives, fortunately, stay together in friendship throughout the years. We, as the readers, get quick, yearly summaries of what has been going on. Emma struggles through the hopes and dreams of making a difference as a writer, only to be a waitress at a mexican restaurant for most of her 20s.
Dexter, the dashing wealthy guy, travels all over the world, banging women everywhere. His hopes and dreams are being fulfilled. When his mom and dad tell him to finally grow up and find a career, he decides on several that sound good for picking up women. It's not enough to find a career that's enjoyable; it has to sound good when you say it out loud to other women.
He ends up being a tv presenter for a crap show and becomes semi-famous but also, a big time belligerent drunk and drug user. But Emma is always within reach as a friend for him, despite his asshole-ness over the years.
He gets married, has a kid, then divorced. Emma has her share of relationships over these years too and finally, finds success in writing. And then, Dexter and Emma get together. It's nice. It's a whirlwind romance after 20 years of friendship.
But tragedy strikes at the 18 month anniversary of their marriage, and Emma is killed in an accident. It was devastating although I sort of knew something terrible was going to happen after accidentally reading one of the quotes other authors write about the book. It didn't stop me from crying in a public area: the bleachers of the YMCA in Salisbury, NC, while waiting for CJ's team to play volleyball. I couldn't help it. There was no way I was not NOT going to read it and there was no way I couldn't help from crying.
The book doesn't end with Emma's death. We read about Dexter dealing with it, even three years after her death. And in the most beautiful ending I have ever read, so poignant and poetic, Nicholls ends it with the way they said goodbye when they first met.
This is where it all begins. Everything starts here, today.The book has already been made into a movie that was released last year. I knew a movie was being _made_. I didn't know it was already MADE and, not only has it been made, but it's already on DVD.
And then it was over. 'So. I'll see you around,' he said, walking slowly backwards away from her.
'I hope so,' she smiled.
'And I hope so too. Bye, Em.'
Amazing book. Just beautiful. Well written. These are two people you won't forget for a long time.