Book Review : One David Nicholls

Crossing the line from friendship to dating has always been an area where men and women tread lightly. Once that line is crossed, the relationship will be altered for life. But what if your best friend is also your perfect life partner? Are you willing to explore a future together that could possibly destroy years of priceless friendship?

The novel written by  David Nicholls… is an amazing one depicting a love story.. that is not actually a fairy tale but that which shows the gap between the youthful aspiration and the compromises that we end up tolerating.

The story includes mainly 2 characters – Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew..aka.. Dex and Em..Em and Dex 🙂

The setup is simple: Readers meet Emma and Dexter (in bed) on the morning after their college graduation, July 15, 1988. With the world before them, these freshly-minted co-eds had one last fling (with each other) before packing their bags for real life. What unfolds is a look at Emma and Dexter on July 15, and for the next 20 years of their lives.

The two attempt to keep their flimsy romantic encounter alive that following summer, but the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship never fully materializes. In spite of that, the two remain the one constant in each other’s lives as they go their separate ways: Dexter books an open ticket to travel the world and Emma hops from one job as a stage actress and writer, to the role of waitress and finally settles on the teaching profession. Throughout their 20-year friendship, readers watch as Dexter appears to have all the luck at the top, while Emma grapples with depression at the bottom of the barrel. Over time, the scale shifts as Dexter hits his lows and Emma celebrates her highs..the jealousy over each of their personal romantic relations and professional success follows the line.

Nicholls has a really witty style of writing that kept me bound to the book. He has written it all as if a film is going on.. in the head.

But, what hurt me the most was.. Death of Emma.. she dies just like that.. she just goes away and Dexter is just left alone. They never really are allowed to be together the way they want to be. I got a lil emotional with this part. Em is just an awesome character.. the arguments..the discussions that they have are written just perfectly. The exploration of Emma, Dexter and their relationship is both comical and heartbreaking, but also incredibly sincere.

I just loved the book. Honestly.. after a long long time I found myself dwelling over all that went in the story.

Here is an excerpt from the book.. that I loved the most:

Emma noticed how Dexter dropped her hand, almost

throwing it away from him as he crossed the street and

embraced his mother. With a further spasm of irritation

she noticed that Mrs Mayhew was extremely beautiful and

stylishly dressed, the father less so, a tall, sombre,

dishevelled man, clearly unhappy to have been kept

waiting. The mother met Emma’s eyes over her son’s

shoulder and gave an indulgent, consolatory smile, almost

as if she knew. It was the look a duchess might give,

finding her errant son kissing the housemaid.

After that, things happened faster than Dexter would

have liked. Remembering the faked phone-call, he

realised that he was bound to be caught in a lie unless he

got them into the flat as quickly as possible, but his father

was asking about parking, his mother wondering where he

had been all day, and why he hadn’t called, while Emma

stood a little way off to one side, still the housemaid,

deferential and superfluous, wondering how soon she

could accept defeat and head home.

‘I thought we told you, we’d be coming here at six—’

‘Six-thirty actually.’

‘I left a message this morning on your machine—’

‘Mum, Dad – this is my friend Emma!’

‘Are you sure that I can park here?’ said his father.

‘Pleased to meet you, Emma. Alison. You’ve caught

the sun. Where have you two been all day?’

‘—because if I get a parking ticket, Dexter—’

Dexter turned to Emma, eyes blazing an apology. ‘So,

do you want to come in for a drink?’

‘Or dinner?’ said Alison. ‘Why don’t you join us for


Emma glanced at Dexter, who seemed wild-eyed with

what she took to be shock at the idea. Or was it

encouragement? Either way, she would say no. These

people seemed nice enough, but it wasn’t what she

wanted, gate-crashing someone else’s family occasion.

They would be going somewhere swanky and she looked

like a lumberjack and besides, really, what was the point?

Sitting there gazing at Dexter while they asked what her

parents did for a living, where she went to school. Already

she could feel herself shrinking from this family’s brash

self-confidence, their showy affection for each other, their

money and style and grace. She would become shy or,

worse, drunk and neither would help her chances. Best

give up. She managed a smile. ‘Actually, I better head


‘Are you sure?’ said Dexter, frowning now.

‘Yeah, stuff to do. You go on. I’ll see you around,


‘Oh. Okay,’ he said, disappointed. If she had wanted to

come in she could have, but ‘see you around, maybe’?

He wondered if perhaps she wasn’t that bothered about

him after all. There was a silence. His father wandered off

to peer at the parking meter once more.

Emma raised her hand. ‘Bye then.’

‘See you.’

She turned to Alison. ‘Nice to meet you.’

‘And you, Emily.’


‘Of course. Emma. Goodbye, Emma.’

‘And—’ She shrugged towards Dexter while his

mother spectated. ‘Well, have a nice life, I suppose.’

‘And you. Have a nice life.’

She turned and started to walk away. The Mayhew

family watched her go.

‘Dexter, I’m sorry – did we interrupt something?’

‘No. Not at all. Emma’s just a friend.’

Smiling to herself, Alison Mayhew regarded her

handsome son intently, then reached out and took the

lapels of his suit in both hands, tugging them gently to

settle the jacket on his shoulders.

‘Dexter – weren’t you wearing this yesterday?’

∗ ∗ ∗

And so Emma Morley walked home in the evening light,

trailing her disappointment behind her. The day was

cooling off now, and she shivered as she felt something in

the air, an unexpected shudder of anxiety that ran the

length of her spine, and was so intense as to make her

stop walking for a moment. Fear of the future, she thought.

She found herself at the imposing junction of George

Street and Hanover Street as all around her people

hurried home from work or out to meet friends or lovers, all

with a sense of purpose and direction. And here she was,

twenty-two and clueless and sloping back to a dingy flat,

defeated once again.

‘What are you going to do with your life?’ In one way or

another it seemed that people had been asking her this

forever; teachers, her parents, friends at three in the

morning, but the question had never seemed this pressing

and still she was no nearer an answer. The future rose up

ahead of her, a succession of empty days, each more

daunting and unknowable than the one before her. How

would she ever fill them all?

She began walking again, south towards The Mound.

‘Live each day as if it’s your last’, that was the

conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for

that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn’t

practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and

courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not

change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out

there with your passion and your electric typewriter and

work hard at . . . something. Change lives through art

maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles,

live passionately and fully and well. Experience new

things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.

That was her general theory, even if she hadn’t made a

very good start of it. With little more than a shrug she had

said goodbye to someone she really liked, the first boy

she had ever really cared for, and now she would have to

accept the fact that she would probably never see him

again. She had no phone number, no address, and even if

she did, what was the point? He hadn’t asked for her

number either, and she was too proud to be just another

moony girl leaving unwanted messages. Have a nice life

had been her last line. Was that really the best she could

come up with?

She walked on. The castle was just coming into view

when she heard the footsteps, the soles of smart shoes

slapping hard onto the pavement behind, and even before

she heard her name and turned she was smiling, because

she knew that it would be him.

‘I thought I’d lost you!’ he said, slowing to a walk, redfaced

and breathless, attempting to regain some


‘No, I’m here.’

‘Sorry about that.’

‘No, really, it’s fine.’

He stood with his hands on his knees, catching his

breath. ‘I wasn’t expecting my parents ’til later, and then

they turned up out of the blue, and I got distracted, and I

suddenly realised . . . bear with me . . . I realised I didn’t

have any way to get in touch with you.’

‘Oh. Okay.’

‘So – look. I don’t have a pen. Do you have a pen? You

must have.’

She crouched and rooted in her rucksack amongst the

litter of their picnic. Find a pen, please have a pen, you

must have a pen . . .

‘Hurrah! A pen!’

‘Hurrah’? You shouted ‘hurrah!’, you idiot. Stay calm.

Don’t blow it now.

She rooted in her wallet for a scrap of paper, found a

supermarket receipt, and handed it over, then dictated her

number, her parents’ number in Leeds, their address and

her own address in Edinburgh with special emphasis on

the correct postcode, and in return he wrote down his.

‘This is me.’ He handed her the precious scrap of

paper. ‘Call me or I’ll call you, but one of us will call, yes?

What I mean is it’s not a competition. You don’t lose if you

phone first.’

‘I understand.’

‘I’m away in France until August, but then I’m back and I

thought you might want to come down and stay maybe?’

‘Stay with you?’

‘Not for ever. For a weekend. At mine. My parents’, I

mean. Only if you want to.’

‘Oh. Okay. Yes. Okay. Yes. Yes. Okay. Yes.’

‘So. I should get back. Are you sure you don’t want to

come for a drink or something? Or dinner?’

‘I don’t think I should,’ she said.

‘No, I don’t think you should either.’ He looked relieved

and she felt slighted once again. Why not? she thought.

Was he embarrassed by her?

‘Oh. Right. Why’s that?’

‘Because I think if you did I’d go a bit mad. With

frustration, I mean. You sitting there. Because I wouldn’t be

able to do what I want to do.’

‘Why? What do you want to do?’ she asked, though

she knew the answer. He put one hand lightly on the back

of her neck, and simultaneously she placed one hand

lightly on his hip, and they kissed in the street as all around

them people hurried home in the summer light, and it was

the sweetest kiss that either of them would ever know.

This is where it all begins. Everything starts here,


And then it was over. ‘So. I’ll see you around,’ he said,

walking slowly backwards away from her.

‘I hope so,’ she smiled.

‘And I hope so too. Bye, Em.’

‘Bye, Dex.’


‘Goodbye. Goodbye.’ 

This is where it all begins. Everything starts here,

today…and goes on till 20 years.. 

A must read novel!! Loved it to the core!!


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