"One Day" by David Nicholls - Book Review

Same Time, Next Year?

One Day by David Nicholls
One Day by David Nicholls. Vintage Contemporaries

An international bestseller, "One Day" by David Nicholls takes on the nature of male-female friendship, love, and career in the post-college years. Set across England in the 1980s and 90s, "One Day" is a tale of two unlikely friends that is told one day at a time, on the same day each year. While perceptive and witty, the book explores some of the sadder aspects of life: denial, missed opportunities, and alcoholism.

"One Day" by David Nicholls was published in the United States in June 2010 by Vintage Contemporaries 

Pros

  • Realistic and recognizable portrayal of men and women as "just friends" (but not really)
  • Truly laugh-out-loud funny
  • Unique telling of a long story - each chapter covers the same day every year over two decades

Cons

  • British vernacular and cultural references can leave the American reader feeling out of the loop
  • Though funny, the story is often heavy and depressing

'One Day' by David Nicholls - Book Review

Dexter and Emma meet on their last day of college in England in 1988 and experience life sometimes together, mostly separately, throughout the following years. Each chapter tells the story of the same day, July 15, St. Swithun's Day, year after year.

Some of these years they are close geographically and/or emotionally. Other years they aren't, but they are always somehow tied to the other, thinking of the other, and as in all stories like this, the reader knows they should be together long before they get around to it.

At first glance, the story was surprisingly similar to "When Harry Met Sally" (with a hearty infusion of alcohol, drugs, and sex). The format is also similar to the Tony Award-winning play and movie, "Same Time, Next Year." But well before the halfway mark, it became a story of its own, with the descriptions and dialogue giving laugh out loud moments.

But for such a funny read, the actual subject matter is not uplifting. It often seems as though the characters are determined to be unhappy, and the ending left me shocked and unsatisfied.

"One Day" is an enjoyable read that is likely to keep you wanting to see how the story of Dexter and Emma played out. The writing and characterization are excellent. As long as you don't have the impression it's an upbeat, heartwarming tale, you probably won't be disappointed.

"One Day" is a popular selection for book clubs. See discussion questions for "One Day." It won the 2011 Galaxy Book of the Year Award. On Goodreads, it gets 3.76 stars out of five stars from readers.

Should You Read the Book or See the Movie?

The author developed a screenplay from the book and the feature film, "One Day," was released in 2011, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. The film got only a 36 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes from critics, who said it didn't capture the depth and insight of the novel. It had a budget of $15 million and made $56 million.