ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Book Review of 'One Day' by David Nicholls, Bestselling Author of 'Starter for Ten.'

Updated on May 29, 2012
MayG profile image

May spends her days reading, running, painting, starting various craft projects and fighting chronic writer's block.

About Dave Nicholls, Author of 'One Day'

David Nicholls is a British writer and screenwriter.

His other Novels are Starter for Ten and Understudy. He also wrote the Screenplay for Starter for Ten which starred James McEvoy, Alice Eve and Rebecca Hall.

He was a co-writer of Simpatico. He was nominated for a British Academy Television Craft Award for the four episodes of Cold Feet he contributed.

He has also worked on screen adaptations for the BBC on several dramas, such as Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbevilles, and Far from the Madding Crowd.

He wrote the Screenplay of 'And When Did You Last See Your Father?', from the Memoir by Blake Morrison. It received critical acclaim, but had only a limited release. It starred Colin Firth as Blake Morrison and Jim Broadbent as his father, Arthur.

A Must-Read!

One Day is the most enjoyable book I’ve read in a long time. It’s one of those glorious books, where you feel as if you’re losing two very dear friends when you reach the end.

One Day follows the life of Emma and Dexter. What is particularly interesting about the structure of this book is that the reader visits Dexter and Em (usually both, but occasionally just one of them) the same day each year from 1988 until 2007. But even though we only see them on the 15th July each year, Nicholls has such a clever way of filling in the gaps through what is currently going on in their lives, that you don’t feel as if you’ve missed anything.

The story begins the day after their university graduation. Emma has somehow managed to get the handsome Dexter, object of her desire, to accompany her back to her flat. Dexter is gorgeous, from a wealthy family and destined for success. Emma from Leeds is disgruntled by the world, overly earnest with a social conscience.

They are both daunted by the idea that they are about to embark on a new, independent adult life, and feeling rather ill-equipped for the task.

Dexter “hoped to be successful, to make his parents proud and to sleep with more than one woman at the same time, but how to make these all compatible? He wanted to feature in magazine articles, and hoped one day for a retrospective of his work, without having any clear notion of what that work might be. He wanted to live life to the extreme, but without any mess or complications. He wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph. Things should look right. Fun; there should be a lot of fun and no more sadness than absolutely necessary."(p9)

As for Emma: “The trick of it, she told herself, is to be courageous and bold and make a difference. Not change the world exactly, just the bit around you. Go out there with your double–first, your passion and your new Smith Corona electric typewriter and work hard at….something. Change lives through art maybe. Write beautifully. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved if at all possible. Eat sensibly. Stuff like that." (p13)

Of course, life rarely stays inside even the most vague guidelines we lay out for it when we are young, for these fictional characters, life is no more obedient. Even the goals they achieve are reached in unexpected ways.

Emma is sure that after that first night, she will never hear from Dexter again. How wrong she is! That seemingly random night leads to a friendship that becomes the most significant relationship in their lives.

Not that they always get along. Over the years, as they develop and change, and their fortunes go up and down, so too does their relationship evolve. At times Dexter seems to have it all, at other times it is Emma trying to pull Dexter out of a slump. Sometimes they’re teetering on the edge of a romance, at other times they are barely friends.

Like Nick Hornby, David Nicholls has mastered the art of prose with a very broad appeal. It is unpretentious, incredibly easy to read, and yet impressively literary.

Nicholls switches between past and present tense so seamlessly from chapter to chapter, that I didn’t even notice until I revisited the book to write this review.

The writing is brilliantly descriptive without resorting to clichés. For example "He had one of those faces where you were aware of the bones beneath the skin, as if even his bare skull would be attractive."(p5)

The dialogue will have you laughing out loud. It is so witty, you can almost hear the characters bickering.

I found myself greedily reading on, desperate to see with each new chapter how Dexter and Emma had fared from one year to the next.

The final chapter is a continuation from their first day together back in 1988. A beautiful touch, that will have you feeling nostalgic for those early days of Dex and Emma, as if in some way it is the passing of your own life you’re revisiting.

There’s probably only one gripe that I have with the book. Toward the end of the book, a major event occurs on this significant day, which just seemed a little too coincidental to me. I don’t want to spoil the book, but once you’ve read it, you will see what I mean. I would love to hear what you think.

For those of you heading into warmer weather, One Day is a great beach read. But then, I also think it’s a great book to read at the beginning of the year, when we’re all thinking about what we want out of the year ahead. Fortunately, living in Australia, my summer reading time coincides with the New Year! Because One Day may be about the friendship of Dex and Em, but it’s one of those books that force you to look back on your own life as well.

Poll Book Vs Movie

Which Was Better? The Book or the Movie

See results

One Day, the Movie

Sadly the movie, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, does not do justice to the book, even though David Nicholls also wrote the screenplay. I strongly recommend reading the book before the movie. It was a tough book to turn into a movie - showing one day for every year, and so much of the characters were lost. Get it on DVD if you love the book, but prepare to be disappointed.

Movies Written/Co-written by David Nicholls


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Danielle Landry profile image

      Danielle Landry 

      5 years ago from Vermont

      It was a pleasure! I think that is also part of where the movie falls short. When this part happens in the movie it is instant - almost comedic because you don't believe it at first. But when you are reading it it takes a minute and you have more time to absorb the weight of it. You also, as aforementioned, get to know the characters a lot more in the book than you do in the movie, which also helps absorb that scene. When I first read it (last summer), the ending seemed abrupt but upon much reflection I have come to much of the same conclusion as you. It really fits perfectly if you think of it as a passing of time concept like you mentioned.

    • MayG profile imageAUTHOR

      May Galnou 

      5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Hi Danielle, Thanks so much for reading my hub and for commenting on it. You are right, hadn't really thought about it like that, but it did kind of show that we should never be flippant when it comes to time. Kind of ties up the whole theme of the book really, which is all about the passing of time.

    • Danielle Landry profile image

      Danielle Landry 

      5 years ago from Vermont


      Ha I have to agree, when I got to the end I actually stopped and put the book down for a minute before I could read the last little bit. As shocking as it was - I really liked it because the best books are the ones that get such a reaction from it's readers. And it wasn't as if Nicholls went out of his way to create a dramatic cause for the tragedy. The most beautiful part of it was that it created a simple reminder of how fragile life is and how you really can't waste a minute of it.

    • MayG profile imageAUTHOR

      May Galnou 

      6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Hi Ivona, Thanks so much for your comment and for reading my hub. I couldn't agree more. I was in complete shock when I got to the end!

    • Ivona Poyntz profile image

      Ivona Poyntz 

      6 years ago from UK

      I recently finished this book: your review does it justice. But oh, was that ending necessary? Why, why, why I keep wondering, did that ending have to be thrown in from left field!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)