The book should come with a warning: “Do Not Read In Public.” The film is fine to watch in company– you’re sat in a big dark room, surrounded by people having the same emotional reactions as you. (Which were even more intense when I was reading, instead of watching, the same story.) Laughing and crying into a book on a busy commute to London is not a good look. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so moved by a book – maybe the reason is personal, as this story has so many parallels to my own life at the moment. The plot begins with the main characters graduating – who then each take it in turn to give accounts of their life on one specific day, July 15th, each year. I could relate to the characters Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew straight away; having just graduated myself, Nicholls captures perfectly the anxiety of life after university and the important decisions that must be made. Dexter goes travelling, but like Emma, I decided to move from my Northern roots and base myself near London, craving to be immersed in the artistic, creative heart of Britain – yet she gets stuck in a dead end waitressing job (uncannily so have I).
Through the film and the novel, Nicholls creates such a wonderfully strong connection to the characters that you get to know them inside out. We watch them transform through their twenties, thirties and forties, and discover how life suddenly unravels so quickly. Having been constantly disappointed by film adaptations, I decided to watch the screen version before reading the book – which I definitely preferred. When you’ve read a book, watching the film is often disappointing as it misses certain events out or even invents subplots to increase dramatic effect. Yet reading a book when you already have faces in mind and know what’s about to happen is a pleasure, because there are so many surprising, charming added extras. David Nicholls has created characters so believable and relevant to today’s society and culture, that I actually feel I know them personally. Branded as a romance, this is no Romeo and Juliet – it is original, bold, a harsh reality of love and life. An absolute must-read, it can definitely be described as a contemporary classic.
So which did I prefer, the book or the film? The book of course – the original, it’s always the book. And they definitely shouldn’t have cast an American to attempt a Northern accent.