One Day (novel)

Last updated

One Day
One day - david nicholls.jpg
First edition
AuthorDavid Nicholls
Cover artist Craig Ward
CountryUnited Kingdom
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date
11 June 2009
Media typePrint
Pages448 pp
ISBN 0-340-89696-5

One Day is a novel by David Nicholls, published in 2009. Each chapter covers the lives of two protagonists on 15 July, St Swithin's Day, for 20 years. The novel attracted generally positive reviews and was named 2010 Galaxy Book of the Year. [1] Nicholls adapted his book into a screenplay; the feature film, also titled One Day , was released in August 2011.



Dexter and Emma spend the night together following their graduation from the University of Edinburgh, in 1988. They talk about how they will be once they are 40. While they do not become romantically involved completely, this is the beginning of their friendship. The novel visits their lives and their relationship on 15 July in successive years in each chapter, for 20 years.

Emma wants to improve the world, and begins writing and performing plays, which remain unsuccessful, while Dexter travels through the world, drinking and hooking up with women. Eventually both move to London, where Emma becomes a waitress in Kentish Town, at a Tex-Mex restaurant, while Dexter becomes a successful television presenter.

While there are various attempts from both sides to start a relationship, coincidences stop Emma and Dexter from getting together, and while they have relationships with other people, they remain best friends, each secretly longing for the other. They are drawn closer through a holiday together and the death of Dexter's mother.

Emma breaks up with her boyfriend, Ian, after realising she is creating a life with someone she doesn't love. During this time she is able to find a job as a teacher, after various years of struggle, despite having a "double-first degree". Dexter, meanwhile, develops a drinking and drug problem, and watches his career collapse.

Emma and Dexter's friendship grows increasingly difficult after Emma is constantly hurt by Dexter, who attempts to hide his feelings for her from both her and himself. Finally, after being treated rudely by Dexter at a restaurant, Emma breaks up the friendship.

At the wedding of Emma's former roommate, Emma and Dexter meet again. Emma admits that she wants Dexter back. At this juncture, she has just ended an affair with the headmaster of the school she teaches in, and Dexter has fallen in love with another woman, Sylvie, who is pregnant. At this reunion, Dexter invites Emma, who is disappointed by the situation, to his wedding.

Emma tries to overcome her problems and begins to write, while Dexter is unemployed and overwhelmed by his role as a father after his divorce from Sylvie, who was having an affair. Emma leaves to go to Paris in the hope of writing a sequel to her first successful children's novel. When Dexter visits her in Paris, he learns that she has met someone and likes him, and for the first time admits his feelings to her. After talking about their relationship, Emma chooses Dexter.

Emma and Dexter form a relationship, are happy together, and get married, but Emma wants a child. The couple finds themselves frustrated by their failing attempts to have a child. Dexter, however, is able to open a deli-café and finds himself on his way back to being successful.

On the anniversary of the day they met after graduation and the day they got together, Emma and Dexter have an appointment to see a house. While travelling there, Emma has a bike accident and dies. After her death, Dexter finds himself in despair. He starts to drink again and provokes people in bars to get beaten.

He is comforted by his ex-wife Sylvie, his father, and his daughter. Three years after Emma's death Dexter travels with his daughter to Edinburgh, where he and Emma met, and they climb the same hill together that he and Emma climbed 19 years earlier.

The book ends with a vivid and lingering memory of what happened after that stay together 20 years before: their goodbye kiss after the evening, promise to stay in touch, and goodbye.

Major themes

Writing in The Times , John O'Connell writes, "For, in spite of its comic gloss, One Day is really about loneliness and the casual savagery of fate; the tragic gap between youthful aspiration and the compromises that we end up tolerating. Not for nothing has Nicholls said that it was inspired by Thomas Hardy." [2] A critic in The London Paper observes that One Day "may be a love story, but it's no fairytale: Nicholls doesn’t shy from the harsh side of growing up, the disillusionment, regrets, and random cruelty of life.". [3] According to Jonathan Coe, writing in "Guardian Books of the Year" (2009), "It's rare to find a novel which ranges over the recent past with such authority, and even rarer to find one in which the two leading characters are drawn with such solidity, such painful fidelity, to real life." [4]


The novel attracted mainly positive reviews. Writing in The Guardian , Harry Ritchie called it "a very persuasive and endearing account of a close friendship – the delight Emma and Dexter take in one another, the flirting and the banter that sometimes hide resentment and sometimes yearning, the way the relationship shifts and evolves as the years pass." [5] Ritchie comments, "Just as Nicholls has made full use of his central concept, so he has drawn on all his comic and literary gifts to produce a novel that is not only roaringly funny but also memorable, moving and, in its own unassuming, unpretentious way, rather profound." [5] This story is reminiscent of Same Time, Next Year .

Elizabeth Day of The Observer also praises the novel, although criticising "its structural flaws", since "some of the most important events in their life are never recounted." Despite this, she concludes by commenting "there is no doubt that One Day is a beguiling read. But although I really liked it, I wanted desperately to love it because Nicholls is, I think, a far better writer than this format allows him to be." [6]

The Times deflected comparisons to When Harry Met Sally... , "saccharine" assumptions, and expectations that the "more literary" will snobbishly gratify themselves that they never read "'commercial' romantic comedies with cartoons and squiggly writing on the cover. Well, be convinced: One Day is a wonderful, wonderful book: wise, funny, perceptive, compassionate and often unbearably sad. It's also, with its subtly political focus on changing habits and mores, the best British social novel since Jonathan Coe's What a Carve Up ." [2]

Author Nick Hornby also praised the book on his blog, calling it "A big, absorbing, smart, fantastically readable on-off love story." His blurb is used in some editions of the book, such as the US paperback edition. [7]

In 2010, the novel was named Popular Fiction Book of the Year at the UK's annual Galaxy National Book Awards ceremony, and was later granted the accolade of Galaxy Book of the Year. [1]

Feature film adaptation

At the time of the book's publication, Nicholls wrote that he was adapting his novel as a film script. He acknowledged the difficulties in casting people who "could be both students and middle-aged! But I think we've found a way." [3]

The film was directed by Lone Scherfig for Random House Films and Focus Features, with a theatrical release in August 2011. Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess portrayed Emma and Dexter, respectively. [8] Filming took place in England, Scotland, and France. [9]

Related Research Articles

Charlotte Brontë English novelist and poet

Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood and whose novels became classics of English literature.

<i>Chasing Amy</i> 1997 American romantic comedy film written and directed by Kevin Smith

Chasing Amy is a 1997 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Kevin Smith and starring Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, and Jason Lee. The film is about a male comic artist (Affleck) who falls in love with a lesbian woman (Adams), to the displeasure of his best friend (Lee). It is the third film in Smith's View Askewniverse series.

<i>Madame Bovary</i> 1856 novel by Flaubert

Madame Bovary is the debut novel of French writer Gustave Flaubert, published in 1856. The eponymous character lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life.

Emily Fisk Giffin is an American author of several novels commonly categorized as chick lit.

Debra Charlotte Morgan is a fictional character created by Jeff Lindsay for his Dexter book series. She also appears in the television series, based on Lindsay's books, portrayed by Jennifer Carpenter. In Lindsay's novels, she first appeared in Darkly Dreaming Dexter, and was featured in every novel in the series.

<i>This Lullaby</i> book by Sarah Dessen

This Lullaby (2002) is a young adult novel written by Sarah Dessen.

Dexter Morgan Fictional character from the Dexter book and Showtime television series

Dexter Morgan is a fictional character and the antihero of the Dexter book series, written by Jeff Lindsay, as well as the television series of the same name, where he is portrayed by American actor Michael C. Hall, and by Devon Graye, Dominic Janes, and Maxwell Huckabee as a youth.

<i>The Book Thief</i> Novel by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is a historical novel by Australian author Markus Zusak and is his most popular work.

<i>The Princess Diaries, Volume X: Forever Princess</i> book by Meg Cabot

The Princess Diaries, Volume X: Forever Princess is a young adult book in the Princess Diaries series. Written by Meg Cabot, it was released on January 6, 2009 by Harper Collins Publishers.

Emma Woodhouse Fictional character

Emma Woodhouse is the 21-year-old protagonist of Jane Austen's novel Emma. She is described in the novel's opening sentence as "handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition... and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." Jane Austen, while writing the novel, called Emma, "a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like."

"Love American Style" is the fifth episode of the first season of the American television drama series Dexter, which first aired on October 29, 2006 on Showtime in the United States. The episode was written by Melissa Rosenberg and was directed by Robert Lieberman. In the episode, Dexter Morgan hunts down Jorge Castillo, a human trafficker and murderer. His sister, Ofr. Debra Morgan, attempts to extract information from a security guard whose limbs were amputated by the "Ice Truck Killer".

<i>Dexter Is Delicious</i> book

Dexter Is Delicious is the fifth novel written by Jeff Lindsay, and the fifth book in the Dexter Morgan book series. The book was released in the UK on July 8, 2010 and September 7, 2010 in the United States.

<i>Intimate Exchanges</i> play by Alan Ayckbourn

Intimate Exchanges is a play by Alan Ayckbourn. Written between 1982 and 1983 it consists of eight major stories all originating from a single opening scene. As the play progresses, the characters make choices each of which causes the story to go in one of two directions, leading to one of 16 possible endings. The play was nominated for the 1984 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, and a 2006 revival was nominated for the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play on its transfer to the Brits Off Broadway festival in New York.

<i>One Day</i> (2011 film) 2011 film by Lone Scherfig

One Day is a 2011 British-American romantic tragedy film directed by Lone Scherfig, and starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Focus Features released the film theatrically in August 2011. It was adapted by David Nicholls from his 2009 novel of the same name.

Dexter Walker

Dexter "Dex" Walker is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Home and Away, played by Charles Cottier. He made his first screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 30 July 2009. Tom Green originated the role, but when the Walker family returned in 2010, Cottier took over the part. Cottier quit the role in early 2013 and Dexter made his last appearance on 13 November 2013.

<i>Turtles All the Way Down</i> (novel) 2017 young adult novel by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down is a young adult novel written by American author John Green, who has also written “Paper Towns” and “Looking for Alaska”. He published this novel on October 10, 2017, by Dutton Books. It is his fifth solo novel, and his seventh overall. Its publication was announced during VidCon 2017, the online video conference co-founded by Green and his brother Hank. It is his first published work since his 2012 novel The Fault in Our Stars.

<i>Submission</i> (2017 film) 2017 film directed by Richard Levine

Submission is a 2017 American drama film written and directed by Richard Levine, based on the 2000 novel Blue Angel by Francine Prose. The film stars Stanley Tucci as a college professor who becomes obsessed with a student. The film had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19, 2017.

Emma Brooker Fictional character from the British soap opera Coronation Street

Emma Brooker is a fictional character from the British soap opera Coronation Street, portrayed by Alexandra Mardell. She first appeared on-screen during the episode broadcast on 20 April 2018.


  1. 1 2 "David Nicholls One Day is Galaxy Book of the Year". GNBA. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  2. 1 2 O'Connell, John (3 June 2009). "One Day by David Nicholls". The Times. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  3. 1 2 Moggach, Lottie (9 June 2009). "David Nicholls – One Day book review". The London Paper. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  4. Coe, Jonathan (2009). "Books of the Year". The Guardian.
  5. 1 2 Ritchie, Harry (4 July 2009). "Days of our lives". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  6. Day, Elizabeth (12 July 2009). "Boy meets girl, again and again". The Observer. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  7. Hornby, Nick. Blog entry, 3 April 2009.
  8. Plath, James (17 July 2010). "Anne Hathaway Starts Filming One Day, Based on the New York Times Bestseller". DVD Town. Archived from the original on 19 July 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  9. One Day. Internet Movie Database. 2009.