This is a big novel, in both length and content, but very easy to read. Spanning two decades in the lives of Emma and Dexter, One Day opens on their first night together after their university graduation, and revisits them each year on the same day for the next 20 years.
This is much more than the usual short period of courting followed by the inevitable get together that you see in most books or movies about relationships – instead you get the whole deal. Career highs and lows, yearnings that go unsatisfied for years, the idealism of youth, the cynicism of disappointment, and the onset of middle-age. Nicholls takes you right inside the characters where everything is exposed. They become your best friends and you get to know them more intimately than most fictional characters – they really get into your skin.
Dexter is cocky, good-looking and confident while Emma is less sure of herself – passionate, idealistic and utterly in love with Dexter while trying desperately to hide it. Their trajectories touch and skim and weave in and out through the years, and through it all, there's a strong magnetism that holds them together – friendship, yearning, goodwill and love. It's not soppy in any way – if anything it's too real. It's a funny book, well written and very enjoyable, and very very moving. It's not a 'tear jerker' but you will cry. And then it'll stay with you when you turn the last page and wish for more.