One Day

Paperback | June 15, 2010

byDavid Nicholls

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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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From the Publisher

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. An...

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. He lives in London.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:448 pages, 8 × 5.14 × 0.95 inPublished:June 15, 2010Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307474712

ISBN - 13:9780307474711

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring, and powerful love story! I have no words to describe this book. It is the most beautiful story I ever read. There is a movie, but believe me it is not worth it ( they cut out all the amazing parts of the book). You probably would not even understand the movie without having read the book. Every chapter is a new year of July 15th. you learn so much from this story, you learn how to be patient, and that true love does not expire through the years. A MUST READ !! Girls, Women you will love it! ( for all ages)
Date published: 2014-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring, and powerful love story! I have no words to describe this book. It is the most beautiful story I ever read. There is a movie, but believe me it is not worth it ( they cut out all the amazing parts of the book). You probably would not even understand the movie without having read the book. Every chapter is a new year of July 15th. you learn so much from this story, you learn how to be patient, and that true love does not expire through the years. A MUST READ !! Girls, Women you will love it! ( for all ages)
Date published: 2014-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring, and powerful love story! I have no words to describe this book. It is the most beautiful story I ever read. There is a movie, but believe me it is not worth it ( they cut out all the amazing parts of the book). You probably would not even understand the movie without having read the book. Every chapter is a new year of July 15th. you learn so much from this story, you learn how to be patient, and that true love does not expire through the years. A MUST READ !! Girls, Women you will love it! ( for all ages)
Date published: 2014-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book It took me a chapter or two to get into but then I couldn't put it down. I didn't want it to end. I would highly recommend it.
Date published: 2014-04-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Heart break in present day - F-ed up lives we live.... Em and Dex, Dex and Em. Meet Dex in his early 20s, where he is well-to-do life, popular with the ladies...Em is the opposite. They share a night together and are forever linked in their twisted friendship. Don't want to spoil it, but not what I expected from the characters. Thoroughly enjoyed
Date published: 2012-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How one day can change lives I’m finally working through the books I’ve read but neglected to review, and this one comes in 15 months after. "One Day" has become one of my favourite books because of how honest it is when dealing with the relationship of two people, in this case, Emma and Dexter, or Em and Dex as they so fondly call each other. People come and go, lives can hinge on one day, and this becomes a major plot device in this novel's narrative. David Nicholls craftily presents it in ensuing years since the first day they meet, dropping us into various situations where Em and Dex have had little to no contact in the stretch of a year or into times where they are at their best with one another. This leaves readers the space to infer what has happened, the span to inflect on what might happen, and the room to imagine what could have happened. When I say honest, I say it because Nicholls has written exactly what someone in the same situation might think or say, without buttering it up to make it more fanciful. Dexter isn’t your perfect, kind, heroic male lead. He’s quite terrible and damaged, but you soon see where he is coming from and even if he doesn’t fully redeem himself, you begin to feel for him. Emma is flawed too; she gets pushed around and goes with the flow, making mistakes after mistakes, and whether she learns from them is left up to you to decide. The weak link to the story is the ending; some saw it coming, I didn't, but I definitely found it slightly clichéd. The movie adaptation stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, at its helm is the director of An Education, Lone Sherfig, and as such, I had high expectations. I didn’t particularly see them as Em and Dex, and it seemed like Nicholls, as its screenwriter, decided to make it more “accessible” to movie audiences, and in so messed with what worked. Forgo the movie but read the book. While "One Day" might appear to be more female-oriented, believe me, it speaks to anyone with an inkling of how human connections are like or to anyone who would understand it one day.
Date published: 2012-09-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Can one day change everything? One Day gives readers just that, snap shots of one day, July 15th, the same day every year for twenty years. The days revolve around Dex and Em, friends who throughout the years find themselves looking at their relationship differently. They start out has friends and between many ups and downs, go on to become much more. This novel gives readers a sense of both the humour and many emotions found between Dex and Em’s relationships. Readers should note the movie which was released last year gives little justice to this novel.
Date published: 2012-03-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Won't read again This book was just alright. I had heard good things about this book and decided to give it a try but I was disappointed. I just couldn't seem to get into it and found the characters frustrating at times. Normally I am one to read books over and over again but this is one that I will not be revisiting.
Date published: 2012-02-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dex and Em, Em and Dex I loved this book! It is easily an instant classic and I would recommend this book to anybody (and I have). Dex and Em, Em and Dex. I can't wait to one day do it all over again.
Date published: 2011-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a really special book This is easily in my top five, out of many beloved novels. After reading this book in one sitting, the characters and their story stayed with me for weeks. I was left really haunted by the question of what one random day, what one freak moment, can mean in a life. The writing was witty and sharp and unflinchingly real - I laughed and cried alternately. Looking in on Dex and Em every year on the same day created the feeling that I'd gone through life with them, making the powerful ending even more impactful. It was a unique and utterly addictive way to tell the story (I could never bear to stop reading right before finding out where Emma and Dex would be next year). The account of their relationship felt sweeping and epic, yet acutely observant and richly detailed. The author somehow managed to take individuals who were at times so flawed I found myself cringing, place them in a dynamic that seemed frustratingly unhealthy, and yet have me convinced that theirs was a love for the ages. In fact, these aspects made their story so much more credible and beautiful and satisfying.
Date published: 2011-10-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Ok not great I didn't really love this book, it was really slow starting off and I was ready to put it down and walk away when someone who'd read it said that it would pick up. So I kept going, and sure enough after a while it did pick up. I didn't really like the characters, I think Dexter was too arrogant and Emma too timid. Hated the ending, especially how it never ended but kept going long after the book should have stopped. The one redeeming quality of the book was the character development, as mentioned in some other reviews the author shone in this regard.
Date published: 2011-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfectly Imperfect One Day was a surprisingly great book. It was a fresh take on the old, but still good, friends in love theme. I really must commend David Nicholls on his perfect execution. It was endearing, and sad, and hilarious all at once. I particularly loved the very realistic way in which the characters changed throughout the years. If you are planning on watching, or have watched the movie, note that it is nothing in comparison to the book.
Date published: 2011-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from deserving of the hype... One Day was the first book of our book club’s 2011-12 reading season (and our 12th year together!) After last year’s (mostly) snooze-a-palooza, it was terrific to come back to some current fiction. One Day comes with a little bit of hype, but I think it totally delivers on its promise. Emma and Dexter meet on the eve of their graduation from the University of Edinburgh in 1988. Although Emma has admired Dex from afar, this is their first real encounter and she is totally smitten. Although they come from different worlds (Emma is working class and Dexter comes from money) their one (unconsummated) night begins a friendship that we see in snapshots over twenty years. The beauty of Nicholl’s novel is that we revisit Dex and Emma on the same day, July 15th, and sometimes threads of their lives are left dangling. In the beginning, both Emma and Dexter suffer from post-college malaise. What are we going to do with our lives? Dexter travels and Emma writes him long letters. He falls into a plum job in TV production. Emma works at a crappy Tex-mex restaurant, then becomes a teacher. Through it all they prop each other up and tear each other down in the manner of friends who might be more if only they could get their act together. This is one of the things Nicholls handles so beautifully in this novel. He juggles their lives – their various liaisons and miscommunications- with such finesse. Even when Dexter is acting like a complete prat we see exactly what Emma sees in him. When Emma is perhaps too serious, we just want to shake her. They are beautifully realized characters, flawed and heartbreakingly fragile. But Nicholls has even more in store for the reader. The book’s denouement adds a layer of richness to the story, bringing us full circle and allowing the reader to consider the infinite possibilities inherent in just one meeting. Oh, the difference a day makes. I loved this book.
Date published: 2011-09-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An interesting interpretation of relationships and life I have a lot of respect for this author in that his ability to create characters is so true to life. One Day follows Dex and Em through 20 years of their relationship, but we as readers only see them each July 15. I found this book to be a slightly depressing look at how life often turns out differently then what you had planned and hoped for and the characters were so flawed that at times it was easy to dislike them - but that is where David Nicholls literary brilliance shows. I think the characters were extremely true to life so while i didn't always like them I could understand them and I could see a bit of myself in them. My major complaint is that after investing some 400 pages on them the ending sort of just falls on your lap rather abruptly in one sentence and you are left to take it as you may. So while I didn't always like the book I respect David Nicholls for painting an extremely realistic story of the lives of two characters
Date published: 2011-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful book - PLEASE READ Another reviewed has put it best - this book definately stays with you. I finished the book months ago and I still find myself going back and reading chapters. It is truly a wonderful story, you feel like you really know the characters and you go through the journey with them. These 2 characters are not perfect but they are made for each other.
Date published: 2011-08-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Hmm 24 hours of goodness.
Date published: 2011-06-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Loved the Concept I loved that the story was told through snapshots of the same day each year. It was an interesting read however, I did not always like the characters- I found they were repetitive. I was also disappointed with the ending. With all that said I did enjoy the novel. It was funny and witty and it was romantic without being corny.
Date published: 2011-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awwwww! This book follows Emma and Dexter--Em & Dex, Dex & Em--from their first night together on their college gradation, through 20 years of their life. Interesting bit is, you only get one day in the year to see this; July 15. From that first night, they have this great chemistry together, and they are hilarious! I always find that British characters are so funny, and these two are no exception--they both are witty, have great senses of humour, and tease each other endlessly. Under the teasing of course, they both feel very strongly for each other, but both are always reluctant to take that leap. Dex and Em are both on their own paths. At first these paths intersect frequently, but eventually they start to run parallel, crossing occasionally, and even sometimes veer away from each other. Dexter is outgoing, handsome, and very sure of himself. He feels he's destined for greatness. Most times we see he's much more down than up, and he suffers a lot, hurting himself and others. Emma is smart and feels sorry for herself a lot, wondering why she isn't happy. When I think of her, I think 'lost', they both are really. She finds it very difficult to find something she loves, or to be happy with where she is in life. What I loved most about this book is that you get to see how Emma and Dexter have changed in one year. Sometimes it's drastic, sometimes not much has changed, but you get a clear snapshot into their lives that one day. What I love even more, is how their relationship stands the test of time. Even when they're not together, they're thought about, even if it's just a passing thought. You get into the minds of these two, what they're thinking, feeling, going through. Their pain, their joy, their shame.There's always a bond between them that keeps them together, good times and bad. Edit: I started this review when I was very close to finishing the book, which I did this morning. And it made me cry. On the subway. In front of people. That's how close you are to the characters. Please don't read any spoilery reviews because you will be, well, very spoiled! I should end this review here because I'll just keep raving. This book is emotional, sad, frustrating, hilarious, and so so real. I feel Nicholls does such an amazing job of creating these characters that you want to hate and love and hug and sympathize with, oh my gosh, I loved it. Read this one please! Review also here: http://allofeverythingforyou.blogspot.com/2011/01/review-one-day.html
Date published: 2011-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fun time capsule of romance I loved this story. I love that a time capsule is created by looking at one day each year - one single day that still explains so much about the year surrounding it. I felt the book to be exciting, nerve-wracking, and incredibly real. The ups and downs of a relationship over two decades - doesn't this happen with any relationship!? I found myself never losing hope for Emma and Dexter, and as I approached the later years, I was sad knowing that the book would come to an end, and I would not have the opportunity to follow them further. A great read if you are a romantic, but want some depth and substance!
Date published: 2011-01-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Complicated I really liked the first chapter. But felt that it just all went down ill after that, but then I realized that it's not the book that went downhill, but the lives of the characters. But then I kept reading, hoping for redemption, for things to turn around. Maybe looking for some sort of big Hollywood like scene. In the end, I didn't find what I was looking for, but realized that the redemptive moments were little moments, and little things. And in the end, I realized that the author probably did not aim to write a novel that wins "most popular" book or create characters that everyone loved. In fact I found the male protagonist extremely unlikable. There are novels you lose yourself in, novels that provide pure escapes, novels that transport you to a different world. This one brought me into the lives of two characters who felt very much like real people, which, I suppose, just meant they were not perfect. And their lives were not perfect. This was an intriguing read.
Date published: 2010-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! This book got to me and has stayed with me since I've read it. I can't wait to see it on the big screen.
Date published: 2010-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it This is such a fun story written in such a unique way. It's funny, sad, uplifting. It was hard to put down. I definitely recommend it.
Date published: 2010-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unique love story of figuring out who we are, what we want & how these are never as expected in life Probably the fastest I've gone through a book - in the best of ways! A fantastic easy read but not lacking in substance. Many love stories worry me that they will be too fairytale-like, light, predictable and typical, but this is an exception. Written in a unique format of letters between two main characters on the same day each year since the day they met, it is a wonderful escape into their growing up from college to adulthood. A demonstration how how life rarely (if ever) turns out how we expect it - and how this is OK, and even good in some ways. The characters are witty, intelligent, tangible - interestingly different from each other. The author develops them well to make you feel like you know and understand them. An entertaining read if you want to laugh, and follow along with the hard and good times that go with growing up, as well as figuring out who we are and want out of life (and how our desires/goals change with age). Your heart strings will be pulled each direction, and you may become frustrated at times with the mistakes humans inevitably make, but will likely enjoy them as well while you identify with your own. I'd probably recommend it to a 20-40 year old audience.
Date published: 2010-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this book. Everyone should read it. Creative way to tell a love story. I was hooked and couldn't put it down. I loved how the characters evolved, and how neither one of them was perfect. Such an amazing story. I can't wait to read it again.
Date published: 2010-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from one of the best books this summer! I agree totally with what the other two reviewers said. I would also add that the emotions I felt while reading about the main characters were so varied - I didn't always like the characters, and sometimes felt myself getting angry at them. The last part of the story hit me hard (you won't be able to predict it, I don't think).
Date published: 2010-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down I absolutely loved this book and did not want it to end. I loved the format of getting a glimpse into the characters' lives one day each year. It was funny, sad, frustrating and romantic, all rolled into one fantastic book. A must read.
Date published: 2010-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I didn't want this book to end! What a wonderful book... I didn't want it to end. The writing is sharp and the characters so funny and endearing. Nicholls is a masterful writer. You follow Emma and Dex through 20 years but only get a glimpse of their lives for 1 day each year - on July 15th. Sometimes they are the best of friends, sometimes they don't talk, sometimes they can't stand each other. It's a book about love, about growing up, about trying to find your way in life, about family and what's important. I found it witty, original and heartbreaking.
Date published: 2010-08-04

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Read from the Book

CHAPTER ONE'THE FUTURE'Friday 15TH July 1988Rankeillor 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.'

Bookclub Guide

US1. 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)

Editorial Reviews

"[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)"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)