One Day by David Nicholls

One Day

If you have seen people walking around, clutching an orange covered book in their grubby paws for the last two years, it has probably been One Day by David Nicholls. The reason it may have had a bit of a resurgence in the last couple of months is that the film version, starring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway, is due for release at the end of the month of August. And although this book could be classed as a love story, you’ll see as many men reading it as women, so why is this? Guys don’t usually like love stories do they? Well the premise is original so that always helps. Each chapter dips into the lives of the two protagonists, Emma and Dexter, on 15 July, St Swithin’s Day, for the next twenty years. We first meet them in 1988 when they spend the night together after their graduation from University in Edinburgh. Having decided not to become a couple, they stay friends and in subsequent years, their lives take them in different directions, but they keep in contact.

The story follows them through Emma’s mundane jobs waitressing in a downtown restaurant, while Dexter becomes a successful television presenter. Emma is a likeable character but with flaws whilst Dexter could be described as arrogant, selfish and self pitying amongst other things. Dexter starts off his career well but as the story unfolds we see him become increasingly addicted to alcohol and other drugs and he loses his jobs from presenting a mainstream television show, to cable TV, to being fired from a late-night video games review show. However, Emma goes from strength to strength, first teaching and then earning a living as a bestselling author.

Dexter and Emma

Film Poster

The chapters visit their lives on this certain date and sometimes we read about both of them, other times just one or the other. A common thread throughout the book is the ‘will they won’t they’ question and at every chapter’s opening you are wondering if this is the time they do get together. On writing the book, Nicholls has said that he wanted to “create the impression of looking through a photo album, so that the characters seem to change, yet remain the same. Twenty years is a substantial sprawl, so my initial instinct was to cover landmarks – births, marriages, deaths. Instead, I’ve taken one day at random – like a date on a bank statement.” If you are one of the few people that haven’t read this book yet, your only question is whether you should wait until the film comes out before you read it or save it until afterwards. My advice? Grab a copy right now.