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All the Books Hidden in Netflix's Heart-Wrenching New Show 'One Day'

Pop Culture

Mon, June 10

SPOILER ALERT!!

Netflix's new hit show One Day, starring Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall, has us desperately wanting more out of Emma and Dex's much-too-short relationship. We are frantically picturing the what-if situations that could have happened if Emma hadn't ridden that bike or if Dex hadn't been so up-himself in episode 7.

Based on the bestselling novel by David Nicholls, the show already acknowledges the importance of literature. However, digging deeper, we can find even more insight into the characters through the books scattered throughout the series. So here are 10 of the books I found on my third watch of the show that I think only make the story even more heart-wrenching.

brown wooden book shelf with books

Image credit: Trvna University from Unsplash

1.‘The Divided Self’ by R.D. Laing – Ep 1

Dex picks this up from Emma's bedside table while she is in the bathroom.

Published in 1960, Laing aimed to make sense of mental health, using his studies of his patients. In the book, Laing argues that psychosis isn't a medical condition but rather the consequence of 'the divided self,' the conflict between the two personas within us: the authentic and the one we present to the world. This radical approach was significant in changing the treatment, making a huge difference in the world of mental health.

This book is on Emma's bedside table just as she graduated, showing how determined she was to make a difference in the world; she had dreams to do something significant, write something significant, and convey how passionate she was about doing something with her future. While it may not be as pioneering of work as R.D. Laing, Emma does write a very successful novel and so, in some ways, fulfilled her dream.

2.‘Towards Feminist Theatre’ + ‘The Socialist Monologues’ – Ep 1

Dex picks these up from Emma's bookshelf while looking around her room.

I put these picks together as both show us the radical ideas that Emma clearly surrounded herself with at the time, furthering her forward-thinking opinions, with her nuclear disarmament t-shirt emphasizing this. The feminist and socialist views show how left-wing she is and highlight the differences between her and Dexter; Dex doesn't seem to be aware or care about the state of the world that deeply, whereas Emma is focused on it, enhancing their different careers, and Dex's struggle to find his place in the world.

3. ‘Mother Courage and Her Children’ by Bertolt Brecht – Ep 1

Dex also picks this up from Emma's bookshelf.

This 1939 play was deemed the greatest anti-war play of all time, written in German and then performed in Germany and Switzerland from 1941-52. Brecht became one of the best-known dramatists, inspiring many with his remarkable writing and criticism. The action of this play spans over 12 years, mirroring the long timespan of One Day, and deals with ideas of loss and the struggle for children, foreshadowing the later episodes in this series. This underlines how strong of a female character Emma is, channeling even just the name of the play 'Mother Courage.'

4. ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ by Milan Kundera – Ep 4

Emma throws this at Dex in Greece, trying to get him to read it.

“Love and morality in communist Prague”

This 1939 play was deemed the greatest anti-war play of all time, written in German and then performed in Germany and Switzerland from 1941-52. Brecht became one of the best-known dramatists, inspiring many with his remarkable writing and criticism. The action of this play spans over 12 years, mirroring the long timespan of One Day, and deals with ideas of loss and the struggle for children, foreshadowing the later episodes in this series. This underlines how strong of a female character Emma is, channeling even just the name of the play 'Mother Courage.'

5. ‘The Beautiful and the Damned’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Ep 5

Emma gives this to Dex's mum along with some other books.

Being F. Scott Fitzgerald's second novel, this solidified his place as a traditional American novelist in 1922. The novel depicts Harvard graduate Anthony Patch and his gorgeous wife Gloria in their nouveau riche life, the calamitous New York nightlife, and the destructive effects of wild ambition.

This heavily alludes to Dexter's partying, which is shown as ruinous in this episode and throughout the series. This is one of a couple of books Emma gave to Dexter's mum, which shows how thoughtful she is, especially when compared to the very hungover Dex in this episode.

6.‘Writers and Artists Yearbook 1994’ – Ep 7

Emma picks this up in her bathroom after she argues with Ian.

The Writers Guild has recommended this book as a very useful guide for anyone in the creative media, and the year 1994 reminds us of the context. The fact that this yearbook was in Emma's bathroom shows how determined Emma is to be a writer, yet we get the sense that she is struggling; the book's placement feels like there is a looming pressure for her to write, and she feels suffocated.

7.‘Starting Up a Small Business’ + ‘Nisha Halliday’ – Ep 13

On Dex and Emma's bedside table in their house together.

These two books being sat on Emma and Dex's respective bedside tables say a lot about their careers at the time and how they are finally aligned in love and their work; both characters are finally successful in their rights and passions. Dexter has found something he is driven to do, and Emma has completed her dream of becoming a successful writer. This moment in the show is like a breath of fresh air; the couple is at long last happy together.

8. ‘Tess of the d'Urbervilles’ by Thomas Hardy – Ep 14

Flashback of Emma reading this to Dex, foreshadowing her death.

Considered a major novel of the 19th century that controversially challenges the sexual morals of late Victorian England, this novel is responsible for the key line of

‘Her own death: a day which lay sly and unseen among all other days of the year, but not the less surely there’.

Tess, the main character, can be read as a member of the rural working class who suffers punishment for her desire for a good life. The 'day sly and unseen' echoes Emma's death and brings up ideas of fate and destiny; Emma and Dex are destined to be together but are not happy. That morbid, repeated line suggests that a death day is one as simple as a birthday and reminds us that our fate is predetermined; we must make good use of our time, and from watching the series, we know how fleeting time can be.

9.‘Mysteries’ by Georgette Heyer – Ep 14

Dex walks into Emma's room with a bottle of wine, but she sleeps with the book beside her.

The last book to be shown in the series is a collection of novels by the prolific historical romance and detective fiction author Georgette Heyer. Beginning in 1921, she wrote over 50 novels and was undoubtedly an inspiration to our protagonist, Emma. Heyer was inspired by Jane Austen and established the genre of Regency Romance, praised for her wit and comedy. The fact that this is key in Dexter's memory of Emma after she had fallen asleep draws attention to the significance of literature in her life and the novel, Dex remembering Emma surrounded by what she loved.

Leah Hoyle
5,000+ pageviews

Writer since Oct, 2021 · 4 published articles

Leah Hoyle is in her first year at the University of Bristol studying English Literature and focuses on pop culture and true crime.

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