Netflix’s One Day: The biggest differences between the TV show and the book


The final episodes in particular have some key changes

One Day – Official Trailer (Netflix)

Look, let’s just start this off by saying we were not emotionally prepared for the sheer joyful, brilliant and tear-jerking performances we’d see in Netflix’s adaptation of David Nicholls’ One Day. The 14-part series tells the story of friends, and eventual lovers, Dex (Leo Woodall) and Emma (Ambika Mod) over a near 20-year period. And for avid fans of the book, you won’t be disappointed in how close the adaptation is. From everything down to the set, certain parts of dialogue and costumes, it’s an incredibly faithful adaptation.

That being said, in the Netflix adaptation there were a few things that happened differently in the series versus the original book. These changes don’t distract from the overall enjoyment of the series, and often, they were changes made (possibly) for the better. However, there are a few moments that if you’ve read the book, you might scratch your head second guessing if it actually happened in the book like that.

So, without further ado, these are the biggest changes in Netflix’s One Day versus the book.


The differences between Netflix’s One Day and David Nicholls’ book

The opening scene

In the series: The series opens before Em and Dex meet each other officially, with them both celebrating graduation and we get to see their meeting with Dex approaching Em on the stairs at the party.

In the book: The book opens with Em and Dex already in bed talking about the future.

The trip to Arthur’s Seat

In the series: During the first episode of the series we see Dex and Em travel to Arthur’s Seat and spend the day there before travelling back to his flat, where they’re greeted by his parents.

In the book: This scene still very much happens in the book, however we only find out what the pair did on their first ever day together at the end of the novel after Emma has died.



In the series: The third episode drops us in 1990, where Dexter is already a TV presenter and Emma has moved in with Tilly and is working at that Mexican restaurant.

In the book: However, in the book in 1990 Dexter is actually still travelling, this time in India where he meets a TV producer who tells him he’d be good on TV, while Emma is in her first year working at the restaurant. From this moment onwards the TV show is then always a year or so ahead of the book timeline, as what happens in episode three is actually meant to be in 1991 not 1990.

Trip to Greece

In the series: In the series the trip to Greece takes place in 1991 and has a distinct lack of Dexter getting his clothes stolen.

In the book: However, in the book the trip takes place in 1992 and following Emma and Dexter’s skinny dip session in the sea, his clothes are stolen by a local and he has to walk back to the hotel in a heavy duty sack wrapped around his waist. And honestly, what a moment we’ve been robbed of.

Tilly and Dexter

In the series: Throughout the series Tilly is a much more reliable friend to Emma, and seems to be someone she genuinely depends on. She’s also very supportive of Dexter and the two just seem to be friends.

In the book: However, in the book, Tilly is portrayed not as the most reliable of friends and most importantly she and Dexter sleep together one time in 1992, which doesn’t make it into the series.


Emma’s book publishing meeting

In the book: In the 1997 chapter Emma goes to a very awkward publishing meeting which turns out to be an interview for the job of the publisher’s nanny and that chapter also sees Dex dropped from his TV show.

In the show: The publishing meeting is never shown in the series and Dex being dropped by his TV show is combined with the episode of meeting Sylvie’s family.

Tilly’s wedding

In the series: In the TV Tilly’s husband is called Graham and becomes a comical side character in later episodes.

In the book: However, in the book he’s called Malcom and I honestly kind of forgot he existed. Emma also doesn’t make a speech at their wedding.

The name of Emma’s books

In the series: Emma’s successful children’s books are about a character called Nisha Halliday.

In the book: Whereas in the novel they’re about a character called Julie Criscoll.


Episode 13

In the series: Episode 13 encompasses Dex and Em’s time living together. The first year sees Dexter buying the shop with Emma, Jasmine coming to visit and the couple deciding they want a baby in the second year, to the third and final year seeing Emma sadly die in 2002.

In the book: The timeline is a little different. In 2002 Dexter has already bought the shop, and Jasmine’s visit happens that day. In 2003 the couple go to a holiday cottage in North Yorkshire, where they talk about their wedding and play Scrabble. And then finally Emma dies in 2004. So if we’re being on honest we prefer the book as Emma gets to live for two more years.

Ian’s chat with Dexter

In the series: On the second anniversary of Emma’s death Ian and the rest of Dexter and Emma’s nearest and dearest come round to keep Dexter to company. Before he leaves to head back to Devon, Ian has a chat with Dexter in the garden about Emma, and how happy Dexter made Emma.

In the book: Ian still says these kind words in the book, however he sends them in a letter on the first anniversary of Emma’s death in 2005.

The ending

In the series: The final episode of the series opens with Emma and Dex at Dex’s house at Christmas, before going onto show Dexter getting drunk at a kids birthday party, and then getting more drunk as the night goes on on his own. He ends up at Sylvie’s place, and she calls his dad, who comes to get him and take him back home.

It then skips forward a year, to the second anniversary of Emma’s death, where everyone comes round to mark the anniversary of Emma’s death. And on the third anniversary Dexter, his dad and Jasmine travel to Edinburgh to reflect on Emma’s life.

In the book: The novel’s last three years alter quite differently from the TV show. On the first anniversary Dexter takes his café employees out for drinks before carrying on solo and thankfully there’s no kids party involved. The story follows the same as the series with Sylvie and his father helping him.

The second year sees Dexter in his new flat, and he’s now dating Maddy, the manager at his café. And rather than have everyone round to talk about Emma, he simply calls each person up to discuss her. And the third anniversary of her death sees Dexter, Maddy and Jasmine travel to Edinburgh.

But no matter who Dexter travels to Edinburgh with, it’s guaranteed to leave us in tears.