One DaySeptember 16, 2010
Elinor Glyn published Three Weeks in 1907. Anonymous published High Noon in 1911. Anonymous — the same Anonymous, I’ve just found — published One Day in 1909. So, yeah, I went and read them in the wrong order. I’m not sorry, though; awful as High Noon was, I’m glad it wasn’t tainted for me by the total horror that is One Day.
What do I even say about One Day? Everything I can think of entails a level of profanity you don’t normally see on this blog.
So, Paul Verdayne. He was an okay guy, right? I mean, basically he was a silly little boy, but the end of Three Weeks indicates that he’s going to grow up and be okay. That’s what I thought, anyway. But we already know that Anonymous and I disagree on many points (see my post on High Noon).
Anyway, he’s all grown up when we meet him again at the beginning of One Day, but he’s still miserable, and, to be honest, kind of dull. His son, AKA the Boy, AKA Mr. Paul Zalenska is twenty, and although he doesn’t know the secret of his birth, they’re close friends. But Original Paul is largely irrelevant; he’s present for much of One Day, but he doesn’t really do anything.
Little Paul meets a beautiful, extremely petite American girl, Opal Ledoux, and they’re immediately attracted to each other. She is apparently doomed to a scandalous life because her grandmothers were adulterous, and if that spells doom, presumably Paul’s parents’ story does too. Which would seem to indicate that the story isn’t going to end well, but who knows? Authors are always talking about doom, and frequently they mean nothing by it. So I wasn’t really prepared for the actual, legitimate doom that arrives at the end of the book.
They fall in love, of course. And, for that extra-exciting touch of incest, it turns out that Opal’s mother was probably the probably the product of an affair between her grandmother and Original Paul’s uncle. That’s probably the only piece of information we get in the whole middle of the book, which consists of Little Paul angsting about his engagement to an Austrian princess, Opal angsting about her engagement to a disreputable elderly Frenchman, and the two of them meeting for the last time. Repeatedly.
After they’ve theoretically parted forever for, like, the fifth time at least, Little Paul comes of age and is sent to Lucerne to have the story of his birth revealed to him by letters from his parents. He is, of course, powerfully affected, and when Opal coincidentally shows up at the same hotel, he suggests that they emulate his folks by spending a day having sex in a hotel on the Burgenstock. So they do that, and then he kills her. No, I’m serious.
I really don’t know what was up with this Anonymous person. Paul and Opal have their fling, after which they’re supposed to part forever — for real this time — and go back to the hotel at Lucerne, and then — I don’t even know. There’s a storm, and Little Paul apparently goes nuts and decides he can’t bear to see Opal married to the French guy. He runs off to her room and suggests they commit suicide. She seems to be totally fine with this, so he stabs her in the chest. Then, covered with blood and still holding the dagger, he goes back to his room and raves for a while about her blood, and then he stabs himself. And then Original Paul shows up the following day so that they can do some father/son bonding, finds that Little Paul is dead, and…helps cover up the crime? By that point, I basically have no idea what’s going on, except that I hate this book.