If you got hold of a big computer, Google Artificial Intelligence and a couple of successful chick-lit novels and romcom film scripts and set them all up in a mix to write the next big thing it’s quite likely that something like One Day in December would emerge. That isn’t to say it’s a bad novel and it will probably make an entertaining film but at times I felt my arm was being twisted!
To kick it off, we have a thwarted love story beginning with two strangers eyeing each other, one on a bus and one on the pavement. That’s a highly visual moment and it sets the whole book up because ‘the man’ on the pavement turns up a little later as the boyfriend of the best friend of the girl on the bus. That’s about it really. It starts in December 2008 and this difficult ‘menage a trois’ stumbles on for almost ten years before we get the dramatic resolution the plot has been building towards.
Laurie is the girl and she is absolutely a girl on a bus and fairly ordinary in every way although lovely with it. Jack is the man – basically tall, dark, handsome and works as a DJ in local radio. The air fizzes and crackles when they meet but, of course, true to the genre they can’t quite say what they ever mean or want to say. Along the way, the plot takes some extraordinary twists including people setting up with other people instead of their true loves.
That’s fine but it also goes too far. There are points where you have to worry about Laurie’s moral compass if you’re supposed to be identifying with her and some of her behaviour goes beyond what you might call the blindness of true love. She doesn’t really seem to notice until the end how her best friend might feel about all this and badly treats a friendly banker – although some might think that is a well deserved fate for him! We also do not get much sense that Jack is taking responsibility for his actions and he seems mostly to react to other people without thinking, while waiting for Laurie to catch up.
Also, as a reader you have to put up with a certain amount of signposting for the film version including giving some hints as to which film star lookalikes would be required for the main parts! There are lots of visuals in the big scenes and quite a few dramatic locations as we build towards the climax. Christmas is also a dominant theme since there are almost ten of them to get through on the way!
Does it work? Well, this hardened old reviewer has to admit to a slight lump in the throat in the cathartic finale where it seems the whole world is working to bring the happy couple together. However, I did get the impression that I was being kind of worked over and some cracks were being papered over so I’m not sure this is the love story of the century. But, there again, if similar films still draw the crowds and they find a hot script editor then roll on the BAFTAs!
(This book is to be published in October 2018. I received a free copy to review courtesy of the publishers, Penguin Books and NetGalley).