David Nicholls Talks About One Day


It’s been described as the love story of the century and the iconic orange cover is instantly recognisable as One Day – the best selling novel by David Nicholls.

This week he spoke to John Mullan in the Guardian book club series about how he came up with the idea for the 20-year romance and was extremely humble throughout. In fact the author spent a lot of the hour talking about ways he could have improved the book if he could go back and write it again.

The story if you haven’t read it (do you even exist?) follows two students who meet at university in Edinburgh and spend just one night together before graduation.  This day is St Swithin’s Day in 1988 and the novel follows the couple through the various twists and turns over the next 20 years of their life – always going back to the same date.

Emma and Dexter have little in common. She is your typical “normal” working class girl from Leeds and Dexter is the polar opposite – a posh, pretentious and arrogant boy from the Cotswolds.

One Day follows the story of how these two people cross paths over 20 years and shows how friendship and love make us better people.

Nicholls said the novel was planned in immaculate detail and although he always knew what would happen  – there were a few details left out which he shared. For example, Dexter was originally going to walk into a job as a journalist with GQ after graduation but Nicholls decided he probably wasn’t clever enough for this (no offence TV presenters) and our heroine Emma, was very nearly called Maeve.

Another change was the title – St Swithin’s Day in the planning stages to the catchier One Day.

It’s not a traditional romantic comedy and although there are many funny moments – the overtone of the book is a touching love story. Real life is captured effortlessly allowing the reader to see their self and friends through the characters.

Within the pages there are many direct speeches lifted out of Nicholls’ life. One especially touching moment is when Dexter tells Emma the one gift he wishes he could give her is the gift of confidence. This is something a friend once told Nicholls during the mid 1990s when he was stuck trying to break into acting.

The recent movie version was touched on briefly but Nicholls jumped to Anne Hathaway’s defence and pointed out that adaptation means change and any film will never match a reader’s imagination.

First published in 2009, One Day has seen extraordinary success. If you haven’t read it already you should make it a priority – just try and avoid anyone giving away the ending.

This article was originally published on Who’s Jack.

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