One Day

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Overview

It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

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One Day

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Overview

It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[An] instant classic. . . . One of the most hilarious and emotionally riveting love stories you’ll ever encounter." —People

“Big, absorbing, smart, fantastically readable." —Nick Hornby, from his blog
 
"[Nicholls] has a gift for zeitgeist description and emotional empathy that's wholly his own. . . . [A] light but surprisingly deep romance so thoroughly satisfying." —Entertainment Weekly

“Nicholls offers sharp dialogue and wry insight that sounds like Nick Hornby at his best.” —The Daily Beast (A Best Book of the Summer)

“[One Day] will leave you hungrily eating up the words. At times, you will experience ‘can't breathe’ laughter, then ‘publicly embarrassing’ sobs. Whatever emotion, all will feel uncontrollable; precisely like the lives of the characters you so badly want to see end up together.” – Seattle Post Intelligencer

"Fluid, expertly paced, highly observed, and at times, both funny and moving." —Boston Globe

"Those of us susceptible to nostalgic reveries of youthful heartache and self-invention (which is to say, all of us) longed to get our hands on Nicholls’s new novel. . . . And if you do, you may want to take care where you lay this book down. You may not be the only one who wants in on the answers." —New York Times Book Review

"Who doesn’t relish a love story with the right amount of heart-melting romance, disappointment, regret, and huge doses of disenchantment about growing up and growing old between quarreling meant-to-be lovers?" —Elle, Top 10 Summer Books for 2010

“A great, funny, and heart-breaking read.” —The Early Show [CBS]

"Funny, sweet and completely engrossing . . . The friendship at the heart of this novel is best expressed within the pitch-perfect dialogue/banter between the two." —Very Short List

“A wonderful, wonderful book: wise, funny, perceptive, compassionate and often unbearably sad . . . the best British social novel since Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up!. . . . Nicholls’s witty prose has a transparency that brings Nick Hornby to mind: it melts as you read it so that you don’t notice all the hard work that it’s doing.” —The Times (London)
 
“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.” —The Guardian (London)

Janet Maslin
However widely One Day is imitated, it will be hard to match Mr. Nicholls's easy blend of bumbling insecurities (Emma's), overweening showbiz arrogance (Dexter's, when he becomes a television star), slow but sure pacing, humorous though seldom outright funny dialogue and authentically troubling coming-of-age issues. Other, similar writers (like Mr. Hornby in his recent Juliet, Naked) mine this same vein, but they tell more pensively complicated stories. Mr. Nicholls uses his adroit professionalism for something more handily miraculous: sweetening the journey from fiery, idealistic dreaminess into unforgiving middle age.
—The New York Times
Liesl Schillinger
Will Dex and Emma get together before it's too late? Will they ever act on the lone un-self-conscious thought Emma has been able to hold in her head since the day she walked away from Dexter, when she was 22 and he was 23, as his parents drove him home from college into his still unblemished future? "Love and be loved," she had told herself, "if you ever get the chance." It's something you may want to find out this summer at poolside. And if you do, you may want to take care where you lay this book down. You may not be the only one who wants in on the answers.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
The Hollywood-ready latest from Nicholls (The Understudy) makes a brief pit stop in book form before its inevitable film adaptation. (It's already in development.) The episodic story takes place during a single day each year for two decades in the lives of Dex and Em. Dexter, the louche public school boy, and Emma, the brainy Yorkshire lass, meet the day they graduate from university in 1988 and run circles around one another for the next 20 years. Dex becomes a TV presenter whose life of sex, booze, and drugs spins out of control, while Em dully slogs her way through awful jobs before becoming the author of young adult books. They each take other lovers and spouses, but they cannot really live without each other. Nicholls is a glib, clever writer, and while the formulaic feel and maudlin ending aren't ideal for a book, they'll play in the multiplex. (June)
Daily Mail
With a nod to When Harry Met Sally, this funny, emotionally engaging third novel from David Nicholls traces the unlikely relationship between Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew. . . . Told with toe-curlingly accurate insight and touching observation . . . If you left college sometime in the eighties with no clear idea of what was going to happen next, or who your lifelong friends might turn out to be, this one’s a definite for your holiday suitcase. If you didn’t, it still is . . . The feel good film must surely be just around the corner. I can’t wait.
Daily Mirror
[Nicholls] has both a very deft prose style and a great understanding of human emotion. His characterisation is utterly convincing . . . One Day is destined to be a modern classic.
The Guardian (London)
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.
The Times (London)
A wonderful, wonderful book: wise, funny, perceptive, compassionate and often unbearably sad . . . the best British social novel since Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up!. . . . Nicholls’s witty prose has a transparency that brings Nick Hornby to mind: it melts as you read it so that you don’t notice all the hard work that it’s doing.
The Independent (London)
You’d be hard pressed to find a sharper, sweeter romantic comedy this year than the story of Dex and Em.
Heat
We may have found the novel of the year—a brilliantly funny and moving will-they, won’t-they romance tracing a relationship on the same day each day for two decades.
Esquire
As a study of what we once were and what we can become, it’s masterfully realised.
Sunday Herald
A delicious love story.
Library Journal
Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew get together (almost) following their graduation in 1988. We catch up with them annually on July 15, St. Swithin's Day, the British equivalent of Groundhog Day but with rain. Here, it's a prognosticator of how their lives are turning out. She's been in love with Dex for years, while he's been in bed with more women than we can count. He gets a job in "media" as a late-night TV presenter on music/rock star interview shows. She works at a crappy Mexican restaurant before altering course and becoming a teacher. Do they eventually find their way back to each other? Nicholls (The Understudy) doesn't take the easy route, throwing lots of relationships and obstacles in our protagonists' paths. VERDICT This tale of youthful dreams coming true and perhaps not being so dreamy is written with great verve and charm, reminiscent of the works of Mike Gayle. A coming-of-age story for all of us who might still be wondering what we want to be when we grow up. [Reading group guide.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307946713
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/24/2011
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 225,739
  • Product dimensions: 5.02 (w) x 7.92 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Nicholls trained as an actor before making the switch to writing. He is the author of two previous novels—Starter For Ten and The Understudy. He has also written many screenplays for film and television, including the feature film adaptation of Starter For Ten and One Day. He lives in London. 

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE
'THE FUTURE'

Friday 15TH July 1988
Rankeillor Street, Edinburgh

'I suppose the important thing is to make some sort of difference,' she said. 'You know, actually change something.'

'What, like "change the world", you mean?'

'Not the whole entire world. Just the little bit around you.'

They lay in silence for a moment, bodies curled around each other in the single bed, then both began to laugh in low, pre-dawn voices. 'Can't believe I just said that,' she groaned. 'Sounds a bit corny, doesn't it?'

'A bit corny.'

'I'm trying to be inspiring! I'm trying to lift your grubby soul for the great adventure that lies ahead of you.' She turned to face him. 'Not that you need it. I expect you've got your future nicely mapped out, ta very much. Probably got a little flow-chart somewhere or something.'

'Hardly.'

'So what're you going to do then? What's the great plan?'

'Well, my parents are going to pick up my stuff, dump it at theirs, then I'll spend a couple of days in their flat in London, see some friends. Then France-'

'Very nice-'

'Then China maybe, see what that's all about, then maybe onto India, travel around there for a bit-'

'Traveling,' she sighed. 'So predictable.'

'What's wrong with travelling?'

'Avoiding reality more like.'

'I think reality is over-rated,' he said in the hope that this might come across as dark and charismatic.

She sniffed. 'S'alright, I suppose, for those who can afford it. Why not just say "I'm going on holiday for two years"? It's the same thing.'

'Because travel broadens the mind,' he said, rising onto one elbow and kissing her.

'Oh I think you're probably a bit too broad-minded as it is,' she said, turning her face away, for the moment at least. They settled again on the pillow. 'Anyway, I didn't mean what are you doing next month, I meant the future-future, when you're, I don't know...' She paused, as if conjuring up some fantastical idea, like a fifth dimension. '...Forty or something. What do you want to be when you're forty?'

'Forty?' He too seemed to be struggling with the concept. 'Don't know. Am I allowed to say "rich"?'

'Just so, so shallow.'

'Alright then, "famous".' He began to nuzzle at her neck. 'Bit morbid, this, isn't it?'

'It's not morbid, it's...exciting.'
    
' 'Exciting!' ' He was imitating her voice now, her soft Yorkshire accent, trying to make her sound daft. She got this a lot, posh boys doing funny voices, as if there was something unusual and quaint about an accent, and not for the first time she felt a reassuring shiver of dislike for him. She shrugged herself away until her back was pressed against the cool of the wall.
   
'Yes, exciting. We're meant to be excited, aren't we? All those possibilities. It's like the Vice-Chancellor said, "the doors of opportunity flung wide..."'
    
'"Yours are the names in tomorrow's newspapers..."'
    
'Not very likely.'
    
'So, what, are you excited then?'
    
'Me? God no, I'm crapping myself.'
    
'Me too. Christ...' He turned suddenly and reached for the cigarettes on the floor by the side of the bed, as if to steady his nerves. 'Forty years old. Forty. Fucking hell.'
    
Smiling at his anxiety, she decided to make it worse. 'So what'll you be doing when you're forty?'
    
He lit his cigarette thoughtfully. 'Well the thing is, Em-'
    
'"Em"? Who's "Em"?'
    
'People call you Em. I've heard them.'
   
'Yeah, friends call me Em.'

'So can I call you Em?'

'Go on then, Dex.'

'So I've given this whole "growing old" thing some thought and I've come to the decision that I'd like to stay exactly as I am right now.'

Dexter Mayhew. She peered up at him through her fringe as he leant against the cheap buttoned vinyl headboard and even without her spectacles on it was clear why he might want to stay exactly this way. Eyes closed, the cigarette glued languidly to his lower lip, the dawn light warming the side of his face through the red filter of the curtains, he had the knack of looking perpetually posed for a photograph. Emma Morley thought 'handsome' a silly, nineteenth-century word, but there really was no other word for it, except perhaps 'beautiful'. 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. A fine nose, slightly shiny with grease, and dark skin beneath the eyes that looked almost bruised, a badge of honour from all the smoking and late nights spent deliberately losing at strip poker with girls from Bedales. There was something feline about him: eyebrows fine, mouth pouty in a self-conscious way, lips a shade too dark and full, but dry and chapped now, and rouged with Bulgarian red wine. Gratifyingly his hair was terrible, short at the back and sides, but with an awful little quiff at the front. Whatever gel he used had worn off, and now the quiff looked pert and fluffy, like a silly little hat.

Still with his eyes closed, he exhaled smoke through his nose. Clearly he knew he was being looked at because he tucked one hand beneath his armpit, bunching up his pectorals and biceps. Where did the muscles come from? Certainly not sporting activity, unless you counted skinny- dipping and playing pool. Probably it was just the kind of good health that was passed down in the family, along with the stocks and shares and the good furniture. Handsome then, or beautiful even, with his paisley boxer shorts pulled down to his hip bones and somehow here in her single bed in her tiny rented room at the end of four years of college. 'Handsome'! Who do you think you are, Jane Eyre? Grow up. Be sensible. Don't get carried away.

She plucked the cigarette from his mouth. 'I can imagine you at forty,' she said, a hint of malice in her voice. 'I can picture it right now.'

He smiled without opening his eyes. 'Go on then.'

'Alright-' She shuffled up the bed, the duvet tucked beneath her armpits. 'You're in this sports car with the roof down in Kensington or Chelsea or one of those places and the amazing thing about this car is it's silent, 'cause all the cars'll be silent in, I don't know, what - 2006?'

He scrunched his eyes to do the sum. '2004-'

'And this car is hovering six inches off the ground down the King's Road and you've got this little paunch tucked under the leather steering wheel like a little pillow and those backless gloves on, thinning hair and no chin. You're a big man in a small car with a tan like a basted turkey-'

'So shall we change the subject then?'

'And there's this woman next to you in sunglasses, your third, no, fourth wife, very beautiful, a model, no, an ex-model, twenty-three, you met her while she was draped on the bonnet of a car at a motor- show in Nice or something, and she's stunning and thick as shit-'

'Well that's nice. Any kids?'

'No kids, just three divorces, and it's a Friday in July and you're heading off to some house in the country and in the tiny boot of your hover car are tennis racquets and croquet mallets and a hamper full of fine wines and South African grapes and poor little quails and asparagus and the wind's in your widow's peak and you're feeling very, very pleased with yourself and wife number three, four, whatever, smiles at you with about two hundred shiny white teeth and you smile back and try not to think about the fact that you have nothing, absolutely nothing, to say to each other.'
 
She came to an abrupt halt. You sound insane, she told herself. Do try not to sound insane. 'Course if it's any consolation we'll all be dead in a nuclear war long before then!' she said brightly, but still he was frowning at her.

'Maybe I should go then. If I'm so shallow and corrupt-'

'No, don't go,' she said, a little too quickly. 'It's four in the morning.'

He shuffled up the bed until his face was a few inches from hers. 'I don't know where you get this idea of me, you barely know me.'

'I know the type.'

'The type?'

'I've seen you, hanging round Modern Languages, braying at each other, throwing black-tie dinner parties-'

'I don't even own black-tie. And I certainly don't bray-'

'Yachting your way round the Med in the long hols, ra ra ra-'

'So if I'm so awful-' His hand was on her hip now.

'-which you are.'

'-then why are you sleeping with me?' His hand was on the warm soft flesh of her thigh.

'Actually I don't think I have slept with you, have I?'

'Well that depends.' He leant in and kissed her. 'Define your terms.' His hand was on the base of her spine, his leg slipping between hers.

'By the way,' she mumbled, her mouth pressed against his.

'What?' He felt her leg snake around his, pulling him closer.

'You need to brush your teeth.'

'I don't mind if you don't.'

'S'really horrible,' she laughed. 'You taste of wine and fags.'

'Well that's alright then. So do you.'

Her head snapped away, breaking off the kiss. 'Do I?'

'I don't mind. I like wine and fags.'

'Won't be a sec.' She flung the duvet back, clambering over him.

'Where are you going now?' He placed his hand on her bare back.

'Just the bog,' she said, retrieving her spectacles from the pile of books by the bed: large, black NHS frames, standard issue.

'The "bog", the "bog"...sorry I'm not familiar...'

She stood, one arm across her chest, careful to keep her back to him. 'Don't go away,' she said, padding out of the room, hooking two fingers into the elastic of her underpants to pull the material down at the top of her thighs. 'And no playing with yourself while I'm gone.'

He exhaled through his nose and shuffled up the bed, taking in the shabby rented room, knowing with absolute confidence that somewhere in amongst the art postcards and photocopied posters for angry plays there would be a photograph of Nelson Mandela, like some dreamy ideal boyfriend. In his last four years he had seen any number of bedrooms like this, dotted round the city like crime scenes, rooms where you were never more than six feet from a Nina Simone album, and though he'd rarely seen the same bedroom twice, it was all too familiar. The burnt out nightlights and desolate pot plants, the smell of washing powder on cheap, ill-fitting sheets. She had that arty girl's passion for photomontage too; flash-lit snaps of college friends and family jumbled in amongst the Chagalls and Vermeers and Kandinskys, the Che Guevaras and Woody Allens and Samuel Becketts. Nothing here was neutral, everything displayed an allegiance or a point of view. The room was a manifesto, and with a sigh Dexter recognised her as one of those girls who used 'bourgeois' as a term of abuse. He could understand why 'fascist' might have negative connotations, but he liked the word 'bourgeois' and all that it implied. Security, travel, nice food, good manners, ambition; what was he meant to be apologising for?

He watched the smoke curl from his mouth. Feeling for an ashtray, he found a book at the side of the bed. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, spine creased at the 'erotic' bits. The problem with these fiercely individualistic girls was that they were all exactly the same. Another book: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Silly bloody fool, he thought, confident that it was not a mistake he would ever make.

At twenty-three, Dexter Mayhew's vision of his future was no clearer than Emma Morley's. He 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.

It wasn't much of a plan, and already there had been mistakes. Tonight, for instance, was bound to have repercussions: tears and awkward phone-calls and accusations. He should probably get out of here as soon as possible, and he glanced at his discarded clothes in preparation for his escape. From the bathroom came the warning rattle and bang of an ancient toilet cistern, and he hurriedly replaced the book, finding beneath the bed a small yellow Colman's mustard tin that he flipped open to confirm that, yes, it did contain condoms, along with the small grey remains of a joint, like a mouse dropping. With the possibility of sex and drugs in a small yellow tin he felt hopeful again, and decided that he might stay a little longer at least.

In the bathroom, Emma Morley wiped the crescents of toothpaste from the corner of her mouth and wondered if this was all a terrible mistake. Here she was, after four romantically barren years, finally, finally in bed with someone she really liked, had liked since she'd first seen him at a party in 1984, and in just a few hours he'd be gone. Forever probably. He was hardly likely to ask her to go to China with him, and besides she was boycotting China. And he was alright, wasn't he? Dexter Mayhew. In truth she suspected he wasn't all that bright, and a little too pleased with himself, but he was popular and funny and - no point fighting it - very handsome. So why was she being so stroppy and sarcastic? Why couldn't she just be self-confident and fun, like those scrubbed, bouncy girls he usually hung around with? She saw the dawn light at the tiny bathroom window. Sobriety. Scratching at her awful hair with her fingertips, she pulled a face, then yanked the chain of the ancient toilet cistern and headed back into the room.

From the bed, Dexter watched her appear in the doorway, wearing the gown and mortar board that they'd been obliged to hire for the graduation ceremony, her leg hooked mock-seductively around the doorframe, her rolled degree certificate in one hand. She peered over her spectacles and pulled the mortar board down low over one eye. 'What d'you think?'

'Suits you. I like the jaunty angle. Now take it off and come back to bed.'

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Interviews & Essays

A Q&A WITH THE EDITOR OF ONE DAY

Peter Gethers is both the President of Random House Films and the editor of the instant bestseller, ONE DAY, by David Nicholls. In this exlusive Q&A, Peter discusses the book's transformation into an upcoming Major Motion Picture starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.

Q: You're more than an editor on this book -- you run Random House Films, which is co-producing the movie of ONE DAY with Focus Features. So to start: How did a book guy wind up in the movie business?

A: Well. . . I've always been in the movie business. I've written quite a few screenplays and television shows and produced a few TV series. It seemed natural that Random House should go into that business -- they have incredible access to material and many great editors who have a sense of what books would make good movies. Happily, Random House agreed, and when we found a perfect partner -- Focus Features -- we were in the film business.

Q: And how did ONE DAY come about?

A: The agent sent me the manuscript. I read it in one sitting and was in my office laughing and crying. I was desperate to publish it. It was the best and most commercial novel I'd read in a long time.

Q: How did Focus Features get involved?

A: A Focus executive in London read the manuscript and she loved it, too. This was not a difficult decision -- we wanted it as a book and film the moment we all read it Random House Inc. has to publish the book for me to be involved with the movie, so I immediately went to Sonny Mehta at Knopf and Anne Messitte and LuAnn Walther at Vintage and said I'd like to do it as a Vintage Paperback Original. They agreed immediately.

Q: And how did the film happen? Was that process just as easy?

A: Miraculously, yes. David Nicholls wrote the screenplay and he turned in a brilliant first draft. Our first choice of director was Lone Scherfig, who directed An Education. We sent her the screenplay and she quickly said yes. We never considered any other actress for the part of Emma except for Anne Hathaway. When she read the screenplay and met with Lone, she said yes immediately. And then we all loved Jim Sturgess when we saw his screen test -- and he, too, said yes. It came together in a way that rarely happens. Then, happily, so did the book. It became a huge bestseller in England, then in many other countries. By the time we published in the United States, there was a big buzz. It became an instant bestseller -- so a happy ending all around. The movie starts shooting on Monday [ed.: July 12th, 2010] -- so I expect an even happier ending a year from now.

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Reading Group Guide

1. To what extent do Emma’s thoughts and assumptions about Dexter [pp. 5-6] and Dexter’s sketch of Emma  [pp. 8-9] rely on facile stereotypes they each harbor?  In what ways do they embody more measured reflections? How accurate are their assessments? Does their initial encounter make the reader more sympathetic to one of the characters? In what ways might the reader’s gender, experiences, and prejudices affect their feelings about Emma and Dexter? 

2. What determines the path Emma follows in her post-university years? In addition to being a wonderfully comic interlude, how does her stint with Sledgehammer Theater Cooperative enrich the portrait of the time in which the novel is set? Is Emma’s explanation of why she ended up working at the tacky Mexican restaurant—“there was a recession on and people were clinging to their jobs. . . . the government had ended student grants” [p. 56]—honest? Have circumstances and “the city defeated her” or is she responsible for her own plight?

3. In his unsent letter Dexter writes, “I think you’re scared of being happy. . . . that you actually get a kick out of being disappointed and under-achieving, because it’s easier. . . .”[p. 42]. How do Dexter’s insights into Emma compare to her own? Is he more perceptive about her than he is about himself? Does Emma underestimate her talents and potential? Despite its carefree tone, does Dexter’s letter betray certain doubts or misgivings about himself?

4. Does Dexter’s meteoric rise in television change the fundamental dynamics between Dexter and Emma? What aspects of their relationship remain unchanged? What influences the things they say and, perhaps more importantly, what they don’t say, during their afternoon on Primrose Hill [p. 60-72]? Were you surprised to find them vacationing together in Greece the following year? Who is more aware of—and affected by—the sexual tensions and temptations they both experience?

5. Is Dexter’s idle vision of his future [p. 9] realized during “the late twenties” (chapters six through nine)?  In what ways is the actuality of his life an ironic comment on his expectations? Does he act in ways that undermine his happiness?  Discuss, for example, his visit to his parents [pp. 120-135]; his humiliating debut on Late-Night Lock-In [pp. 176-7]; his hostile, crude manner at dinner with Emma [pp. 205-210]; and his glib excuses and rationalizations for his actions [p.190]. What glimpses are there of his more vulnerable side? Do they make him a more appealing character?

6. “At twenty-seven, Emma wonders if she is getting old” [p. 115]. Do Emma’s feelings about both the satisfactions and regrets that come with being “grown-up” ring true? What explains Emma’s relationship with Ian? Is she willingly deceiving herself (and Ian)? Despite her impatience with him and his desperately unfunny comedy routines, does she have genuine feelings for Ian?

7. At the disastrous dinner on July 15, 1995, Emma declares, “Dexter, I love you so much. . . . and I probably always will. I just don’t like you any more. I’m sorry” [p. 210]. Does Dexter recognize why his behavior leads to this break? Does he care? Could the dinner have ended differently? 

8. Compare Dexter’s reaction to his agent’s report on how he is perceived [pp. 240, 243] and Emma’s reaction to her unsuccessful interview with a publishing executive [p. 245]. What do they reveal how each of them approaches life’s ups-and-downs?

9. “Now that she was actually involved in an affair—its paraphernalia of secret looks, hands held under tables, fondles in the stationery cupboard—she was surprised at how familiar it all was, and what a potent emotion lust could be, when combined with guilt and self-loathing” [p. 221]. What does the affair with Mr. Godalming reflect about Emma’s state of mind as she approaches her mid-thirties? What satisfaction does it give her? To what extent is she influenced by the romantic notions and expectations society imposes on unmarried women?

10. When he meets Sylvie Cope, Dexter thinks, “And yet, despite all this, the downturn in professional fortunes, he is fine now, because he has fallen in love with Sylvie, beautiful Sylvie. . . .” [p. 251]. In what ways does the affair open Dexter’s eyes to new possibilities and a different way of life? What flaws in their relationship does he fail to grasp fully and why?  What consequences does this have on the course of their marriage?

11. What is the significance of the wedding Dexter and Emma attend [p. 269-296]? What do they learn about themselves and each other that surprises, pleases, or unsettles them? What do their conversations [pp. 286, 290, 293, for example] represent in terms of their personal development as well as the evolution of their friendship? 

12. What does the rendezvous in Paris share with Emma and Dexter’s trip to Greece nine years earlier? What impact does Emma’s success as an author and Dexter’s failed marriage have on the “balance of power” between them? Discuss the factors—including age, their individual circumstances, and the length of their friendship—that contribute to their willingness to be more honest and open with each other.

13. Do Emma’s musings about where life has taken her [p. 381] resonate with you? What do Emma and Dexter at forty have in common with the people they were on graduation night? How does Nicholls simultaneously capture the ways people change and the persistence of individual characteristics through the passage of time?

14. What demands does the unusual structure of One Day make on the reader? Discuss how the yearlong gaps between chapters; the focus on sometimes-mundane happenings rather than “big” events; and the alternation between Dexter’s and Emma’s journeys within each section increase your curiosity and engagement with the novel.

15. Callum is casually mentioned as mutual friend in Chapter 2 [p. 21] and chapter 6 [p. 109] and Ian makes his first appearance simply as Emma’s co-worker in Chapter 3 [p. 37]; both will become significant figures.  What other secondary characters become more important than the protagonists—and the reader—anticipate? What do these “surprises” reflect about the way lives unfold?

16. What does One Day share with traditional boy-meets-girl stories you are familiar with from books or movies? What does it suggest about the relationship between love and happiness?

17. How well does the novel capture society and culture over the twenty-year period? What specific details (references to books, television programs, political events, etc.) help bring the different periods to life? In what ways do the characters embody the qualities, good and bad, of their generation?

18. Throughout the novel, Dexter and Emma withhold or suppress their feeling for one another. Is one of them more guilty of this and, if so, why? What role does fate (e.g. Dexter’s unsent letter, missed phone calls, etc.), along with the characters’ assumptions and misinterpretations, play in the plot? The final section of the novel is introduced with a quote from Tess of the D’Ubervilles and in the acknowledgments [p. 437] Nicholls says, “A debt is owed to Thomas Hardy.” If you are familiar with Tess or Hardy’s other novels, discuss how his works might have influenced Nicholls in writing One Day.

For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit: www.readinggroupcenter.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 1731 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1738 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Surprising

    A little bit "When Harry Met Sally" (one character even jokingly refers to the main characters as Harry and Sally), but written in such a unique format, visiting the characters on the same day each year, year after year. This unique pacing kept me glued to the pages and telling myself "Just one more chapter so I can see what happens next year" until before I knew it most of my day had been spent finishing the book. The unique style and a surprising ending separate it from other romantic comedies.

    34 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    I LOVE IT!

    This is a delicious, brilliant, funny, emotionally engaging romantic comedy, a moving, feel good read.
    The book opens with Emma and Dexter on July 15, 1988, the last day of University in Edinburgh. She is a brain child, he is privileged and spoiled rotten. They are attracted to each other but it is the last day, and they are headed in different directions. Their story then proceeds in yearly episodes, only taking place on July 15, from 1988 through 2007. The author sticks to this original order of things, filling in background as needed. Emma and Dexter remain friends, although each has separate romantic entanglements, or lack of them, and their careers take quite different courses. When Harry Met Sally meets SAME TIME NEXT YEAR..I loved both of these movies! Perfect!! Memorable, moving ending!! I loved it!

    27 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    good read

    I enjoyed reading this delicious and romantic novel. Good plot, great characters. will buy more

    23 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A GREAT TRUE TO LIFE STORY ABOUT FATE AND HOW WE EVOLVE OVER TIME...

    This is a long, exciting story, reminiscent of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. Dexter and Emma who meet in college and stay friends over a twenty year period, despite life pulling them in different directions. Each chapter has a meeting point, July 15th every year, and reveals where each is in their lives. Sometimes they seem close to becoming lovers, but then circumstances intervene and that moment seems to get lost. There is connecting, reconnecting, reminiscing and each having a direct effect on each other's direction in life. This is a great, true to life story about fate and how we all evolve over time...Another one this reminds me of is SAME TIME NEXT YEAR.

    18 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    B O R I N G

    I hardly ever write book reviews but I had to get in on this one. I'm sorry I have no idea what the big deal was about this book. I found it incredibly boring. I read about 1/2 of it thinking it was going to get better at some point - no luck. I highly disliked the male character, and he's the lead so how is it suppose to get better from there? The female is not much better.
    I came to not care what this couple was doing on this particular day each year and ended up skipping about 1/3 of the book.
    I guess it just wasn't my kind of book: no action, no mystery, and barely a love story.

    10 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2010

    I LOVED IT!!!

    I bought this book two days ago and COULD NOT put it down. I needed to know all of Em and Dex's story. What a well-written, funny,touching, and brilliant way to tell the story of two friends over twenty years...a must have on your summer reading list!

    9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 2, 2010

    angry i took the time to read it!

    I am so disappointed with this book! I feel it was the biggest waste of time EVER. The book just ends...while reviewing his memories..I am so angry..no closer on the book what so ever. Just when you think something great is finally going to happen it doesnt. From the pivatal moment of one of the main char. it just d-r-a-i-n-s you from then on..sucks you dry with pointless memories that we as the readers also read at the beginning of the book.. Pointless, Dry. no closers I wish I could get my money back..I willnot even speak of this book to my fellow readers even as to how bad it was..that in its self is to much attention to such a worthless book!.. sorry..I am writing this moments after finishing the book..still abit upset over all the lost time of reading it.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved this book.

    I don't normally take the time to write a review unless a book touches me and this one definitely did. The format was unlike anything I've ever read. The story progresses, but you are only given the story from the viewpoint of one specific day in a year. You never know what will happen from one chapter to the next - honestly, where will any of us be exactly one year from now, really? It is heartfelt, romantic, touching, funny and clever. The relationship between Emma and Dexter, no matter if it was romantic or just friendship, is engaging and so well thought out. It was the kind of book I found myself thinking about when I wasn't reading it. And 360 pages is not light reading! I hope everyone enjoys this book just as much as I did. :)

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Fine Summer Read

    I think that what Mr. Nicholls very adroitly captures is the trajectory of the middle of life. The supporting characters are not as finely fleshed out as the main ones, but that's ok, because giving us one day a year for 20 or so years makes character development a stretch. The only characters that really matter are Dexter and Emma and I felt like I knew them and cared about them. I was very impressed that, in this format, the characters became real. The story of them and their relationship is so tender and understated. The end is sad and touching and the final chapter is such a great end. It perfectly conveys the book cover and wraps up the story, leaving you feeling satisfied and entertained. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to everyone, but particularly women, because it's so sensitive.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2010

    Pure, honest, sensational

    From the very first chapter, I fell in love with Emma and Dexter. Nicholls does a superb job of honestly portraying his characters in a profound way that makes you laugh, gasp, cringe, and ultimately, cry for them. I'm not sure that I've ever felt for characters the way I did with this book. But this isn't just a "love story." It is smart, humorous, and touching; not just fiction, but literature. It was a book that you don't want to put down, but you fear finishing it too quickly and ending the experience.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2010

    Loved this book!!!

    I just thought this was a great read...I enjoyed the characters; I cared about them, got frustrated by them, wanted the best for them. I really enjoyed how the author had them "grow-up"...I look at people and wonder what they were like as kids or young adults, and this author provides this. I've been recommending it to a lot of friends.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2011

    Great idea, poor delivery

    **Slight Spoiler Alert** Let me just start out by saying, I really liked the format of this book. I love the idea of getting the reader through time by focusing on one day each year. It was effective. That said, I absolutely hated the ending of the book. I saw it coming several chapters before. I don't know why for a book to be considered a "great" work of literary fiction it must end the way this book, and so many others deemed great, do. I found it predictable, not just the ending but many other aspects, such as Emma's affair. I had a hard time liking a protagonist like Dexter--I found him glib and completely irresponsible. For example, getting drunk while caring for his baby daughter. Yuck. I also thought the language was a bit much; it seemed every other line Dex was saying the "F" word. Is there no more creative way to use the English language? I wanted to like this book, apparently many others do. As others have stated, it is very much like When Harry Met Sally. There were times when I was laughing out loud. However, it just fell short in so many other ways for me.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2010

    Not so good...

    I brought this after hearing all the "great" reviews about it, and I'm sorry for the purchase. It is dry, predictable and not much of a story. Maybe I'm not a fan of contemporary literature, but I just can't connect with it. Irritating characters... I am thinking this might be autobiographical, but names changed to protect the innocent. A classic example that a some stories that are better told verbally shouldn't be published. Ugh.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 4, 2010

    fell in love with emma and dexter

    I loved this book. although as people the characters, especially dexter were incrediably flawed (like the rest of us humans) i simply fell in love with both of them. Emma was just incrediably strong yet dependent and Dexter seemed to be strong and independent yet was weak and dependent as well. I was sad to let their story go!!!! loved the way it was written, one year at a time, development of story and characters around them, and shows you how all lives evolve and change. great, great book.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2010

    I absolutely loved this book!

    If you are looking for a good read this summer--or any time, for that matter--and enjoy what I call "relationship fiction", you won't be sorry you read this! Word is that Hollywood is adapting this as I write this--as long as they don't turn it into standard rom-com it should be great.

    Trust me on this one--you will love this book!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 11, 2011

    This was one of the worst books I've ever read.

    This book was just LOUSY. The writing was pitiful, the characters annoying in their stereotypical 'good but insecure girl and silly undependable bad boy' who finally get together.

    The ONLY reason I finished it was because I have a personal rule to finish every book I start, otherwise I would have closed this on page twenty instead of hoping it got better.

    Poorly written, unlikable characters, ridiculous story line.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Baby Boomer Delight

    Nicholas Sparks with substance? This soap opera of a novel is well-paced and consistently interesting. The characters have depth (take that Sparks!) and are consistently believable. So, yes, I enjoyed reading One Day even if I would have changed a few of the contrivances.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Nothing not to like about it.......

    This book is just so cuddly. It's a perfect light read. Nicholls makes their personalities so potent-you feel like you're part of their world, their lives. You want to call either of them on the phone and tell them what mistakes their making, but like so many people, Em and Dex want to take all the detours.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2010

    felt the passion and the yearning

    One day captured the innocence and power of love. The characters were realistic and touching. The author did more than just describe their actions but magically made me feel the yearning and the truth between the love that was so obvious but still somewhat discreet between the two characters. This story depicts love so beautifully but not too fantastical, one day is a story of real love and real life. This book is one of my favorites.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2010

    Great, Moving Story

    This book was quite a surprise. I found myself laughing out loud, weeping and thoroughly enjoying this book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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