One Day- David Nicholls

What did you do on July 15th? Maybe you fell in love, maybe your heart broke, maybe you were fired, maybe your dreams came true, maybe you had a fight with your best friend. Maybe your life changed forever. Maybe all of these.

July 15th 1988, Dexter and Emma spend the night of their graduation in bed kissing and talking knowing that afterwards they have to go on with their very different lives, Dexter will go travelling and on with his privileged middle class existence, Emma back to her parents’ home in Leeds. Neither really expects to see the other again, but this is the start of a friendship and love that will last the rest of their lives. One Day tracks their relationship through the next twenty years, always on July 15th.

This was a great book and cleverly written by David Nicholls who also wrote Starter for Ten. I’m sure you’ve heard the massive praise for this book (another one that had me laughing and crying in public) so I just thought I’d share my thoughts on the book very quickly.

Though I really enjoyed the book and liked the characters an awful lot, I find David Nicholls’ writing style a bit strange. His background is in acting and television, and his writing is somehow reminiscent of this, focusing on the establishment of scenes, juxtaposing Emma and Dexter’s situations across the years in a way which is almost visual, and with fantastic dialogue which bounces back and forth in a manner that is reminiscent of sit com banter, funny, but somehow artificial. It reminded me of a diluted literary version of my favourite film, Jeux D’Enfants, the characters unable to acknowledge their real emotions and throwing unnecessary obstacles in the way of their love.The film version, wow that was fast...

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the book was really engaging, presenting characters who are loveable not because of their flaws, but because of the quirky charms that shine through regardless. In a way it’s Starter For Ten grown up. The class conflicts, the arrogant little tosser, the brainy girl, the feeling of being lost and found. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I’ve read an author like David Nicholls for capturing the British university experience, and this seems to be an extension of this. I fully sympathise with Emma’s awkwardness, and understand the sarcasm she uses to cover her shyness and unease about life not panning out as she had imagined upon collecting her first class honours. I can even relate to the attempts at inspirational speeches to students who just don’t want to get along.

You can’t miss the hype surrounding this book, even if you missed that it won the Galaxy Popular Fiction Book of the Year Award and the mentions in TV and Radio as the must read book of 2010 there have been countless WordPress reviews of it. The book certainly does not disappoint even after all these accolades. Unsurprisingly, the film adaptation is already in the works, and names like Anne Hathaway (Emma), Jim Sturgess (Dexter) and Romola Garai (Sylvie) mean that it will be a massive box office hit, though the casting of a flawless American smiley smiley beauty as Emma is sure to raise quite a few eyebrows.




7 thoughts on “One Day- David Nicholls


    Agree there is something filmic about Nicholl’s prose- you can imagine his agent rubbing his hands with glee on reading it! The message is good, but perhaps he got the medium wrong and it should have only ever been a screenplay..?
    (like the review btw!)

    1. Siobhan

      I expect he wrote the screenplay too- cue pound signs in the agents eyes! I don’t think that a book is the wrong medium per se, just that it’s an unusual style of writing. I actually think that might account for much of it’s success with (and I don’t mean to be patronising here but am aware I might sound like a knob) people who wouldn’t describe themselves as readers. The juxtaposition of character’s perspective is a common film device, and so the style might be one that feels natural to them, allowing them to ignore that it is a book.

  2. bennybentham

    It is indeed, though where it works well in film, quick cut editing, for me, doesn’t work well in the written word. I found his writing style a bit jarring because of it and it stopped me engaging totally. But still, it’s not a bad read.
    (You didn’t sound like a knob)

    I dunno, film-y books remind me of James Patterson novels. Nicholls is obv far superior, but still… (Now I sound like a knob…)

    1. Siobhan

      No, you don’t sound like a knob either 🙂 though isn’t it interesting how you can feel so much more self concious discussing a book than say, a film?

    1. Siobhan

      This is what I love most about the film- I just don’t know! Every time I watch it I change my mind. I swing between the ending being real, and the flash forward being the life they should have had, or the ending not being real and Julien’s warning at the beginning of the film acting as some kind of disclaimer, but… if pressed I think that the ending was real. Because true love is truly mental. How about you?

  3. mari (Bookworm with a View)

    This isn’t a book that I would pick up on my own, I listened to it on audio while moving last summer. I disliked Dex so much and thought Emma and Dex romantically would never happen. So I had issues with the book.

    Dex was a creep! 🙂

    That said, I only know one other person who didn’t like the book. Most love it. I will see the movie though, would love to see how they film this one (one day over 20 years).

    Great review


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