ONE DAY by David Nicholls | Book, Movie & TV Series Review: Depth & compassion

One Day by David Nicholls is an authentic story told with exquisite humour, depth and compassion. Read on for why I highly recommend this novel in the audiobook format, plus why I think the 2011 movie adaptation is a poor substitute, but the 2024 TV series is on-the-money.

One Day Book Synopsis

One Day David Nicholls - Book Review

‘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.’

15th July 1988. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year which follows?

One Day is a funny/sad love story spanning twenty years, a book about growing up – how we change, how we stay the same.

“ instant classic. . . . One of the most hilarious and emotionally riveting love stories you’ll ever encounter.” — People

Genre: Drama, Romance, Humour, Literature

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post we may earn a small commission to help offset our running costs.


Has a novel ever made you laugh and want to cry at the same time? One Day did that to me.

Nicholls forces us to fall in love with his lead characters, Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, as we check in with them each year on the anniversary of their first liaison. How can one not feel a connection to these characters when they think the same things we have all thought? How can one not feel empathy for these hapless individuals when we have all made similar mistakes in our own lives?

These characters feel so alive to the reader and are so genuine and endearing because Nicholls displays a real understanding of the difference between what people say and what they mean. The banter between Emma and Dexter is exquisite and often laugh-out-loud funny – wit and sarcasm at its very best.

“No, stay a bit longer. We’ll get another bottle.”
“Isn’t Naomi waiting for you somewhere, her little mouth crammed full of drugs like a little druggy hamster?”

Love and friendship

In One Day, which on the surface is a ‘will they, won’t they’ story, David Nicholls has created a wonderful and haunting exploration of the themes of love and friendship, self-doubt and frustration, regret and loss.

“Oh you know me. I have no emotions. I’m a robot. Or a nun. A robot nun.”

This is a sad ‘carpe diem’ tale for the real world – an enduring story, one without the cheesy Disney ending.

I listened to this in audiobook, often sitting for longer than necessary in my car after arriving at work, just so I could listen to another minute more. The narration by Anna Bentinck was brilliant (listen to an audio sample).

This is a novel I would give as a gift to those with at least 30 years under their belts. The messages will resonate for all, but most strongly for those with some life experience.

I cannot recommend this book more highly – it genuinely moved me. I cannot wait to read more from this author.

BOOK RATING: The Writing 5 / 5 ; The Story 5 / 5

Get your copy of One Day from

Bookshop US Foyles UK Indigo CA Booktopia AU/NZ Audiobook

This title is featured in our Top Intelligent Rom-Coms Reading List.

Update: I have since also enjoyed David Nicholls’ new novel Sweet Sorrow.

About the Author, David Nicholls

David Nicholls has written for film and television (Cold Feet, Rescue Me, I Saw You, Tess of the D’Ubervilles) along with his novels Starter for Ten (2003), The Understudy (2005), One Day (2009), Us (2014) and Sweet Sorrow (2019).

One Day Movie Review

The 2011 feature film version of One Day was directed by Lone Scherfig and starred Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Romola Garai, Rafe Spall, Jodie Whittaker, Ken Stott and Patricia Clarkson.


In isolation, One Day the movie, is a lovely way to spend 107 minutes on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess do a great job in the lead roles of Emma and Dexter, and the producers did manage to capture some of the humorous moments of the novel. They portrayed Anne Hathaway’s character Emma’s transformation from ugly duckling to swan quite convincingly.

BUT the movie does not come close to shining as bright as the original novel.

Watching this One Day movie highlighted for me just how much depth and substance in Emma and Dexter’s relationship author David Nicholls developed within the novel. Some of my favourite scenes did not even make the cut and others received a disappointingly small amount of air time. Only because I had read the book did I understand the significance of certain events or dialogue within the movie. I found myself continually explaining the deeper storyline and tiebacks to those watching it with me.

The movie did not make me want to laugh and cry at the same time like the book did. So, for those that still have not already read David Nicholls’ One Day, be warned. Although entertaining, the movie really is a poor substitute.

One Day TV Series, 2024

I will always say, “Read the novel first!” but am now relieved to report Netflix’s One Day TV adaptation is absolutely worth watching. It is one of those very rare adaptations that captures and conveys the authentic essence and emotional impact of the original novel.

The beauty of this novel is the aggregate of so many little things the two leads share over the years, and this 14-episode limited series format allows all those nuances to be explored. And, since this version has been made for streaming, they have not been required to shoe-horn the narrative into standardised episode lengths. Instead, they have replicated this novel’s powerful chapter structure — some episodes are short, others are longer. This more authentically replicates in the audience experience the time lags, reflection and growth that the lead characters Emma and Dexter experience in their relationship.

It comes as no surprise to me that this adaptation was written by Nicole Taylor, a screenwriter who very much identified with the characters when she first read the novel back in 2009. David Nicholls was one of the executive producers of this superb adaptation too. But, series producer Nige Watson, the directors, creatives and talented cast led by Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall that have brought this edition to life should take a bow also.

Netflix TV series (2024)

Related Reads:
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls  / The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary  /   The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes  /  Best Audiobooks of the Decade, Reading List