‘A love story is just looks, smiles or arguments’

The Guardian reviewer thought it “a novel that is not only roaringly funny but also memorable, moving and, in its own unassuming, unpretentious way, rather profound”. The critic in The Times described it as “a wonderful, wonderful book: wise, funny, perceptive, compassionate and often unbearably sad”. The novelist Jonathan Coe declared it the best novel he had read in 2009, writing: “It’s rare to find a novel which ranges over the recent past with such authority, and even rarer to find one in which the two leading characters are drawn with such solidity, such painful fidelity, to real life that you really do put the book down with the hallucinatory feeling that they’ve become as well known to you as your closest friends.”

Readers agreed. One Day has sold more than six million copies worldwide, and has been translated into 40 different languages. There was a period in Britain when everyone on public transport seemed to be reading it. A headline in The Observer referred to Nicholls as “the man who made a nation cry”, a reference to the book’s now famous – infamous even, given the shock it causes readers – twist.

A film version released in 2011 and starring Anne Hathaway as Emma has some devotees but received some pretty vicious reviews. Many felt Hathaway was miscast. However, the series, with Mod and Woodall as Emma and Dexter, has been a smash hit. It reached the Netflix top 10 in 89 countries, was number one in numerous territories, and remained in the global top 10 list for seven weeks. There was a social media craze for fans posting videos of themselves crying after watching the final scene. On X, viewers jokingly declared that they were going to send Netflix the bill for the therapy required to help them recover from the emotional devastation wrought by the series. Kim Kardashian recommended it to her 364 million Instagram followers.

The secret of its success

How to account for its mega-hit status? “Romance is a popular genre on Netflix. Bridgerton, Heartstopper, and other series have been hits for the platform,” says Richard Lawson, the chief critic at Vanity Fair magazine. “The book’s popularity and the easily marketed hook of the premise are certainly factors.

“One Day also really lends itself to the bingeing format – it’s built in such a way, one vignette tumbling into the next, that proves highly addictive. Plus, it’s genuinely good, and that cannot be said about a lot of Netflix originals these days. There’s thought and artistry behind it.”

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