#Book Review: You Are Here

Author: David Nicholls

First, there was one (One Day), and then there was the second one (You Are Here). I really did not think that David Nicholls would do it again, but yet, here we are. You Are Here is another masterpiece on par with One Day, my all-time favourite book.

You Are Here first made me think about the rise of AI and fears that it will take over from humans and destroy creative industries. I don’t know about other creative industries, but I doubt that AI could ever write like David Nicholls and get me to love those books. What I noticed when reading this book is that after reading all the books Nicholls wrote, I simply recognize that distinctive style of writing when we first read her story, then his story, and then their story intertwined continuously by their individual stories, thoughts and feelings. This is the style of David Nicholls, and no machine can repeat that. It is also distinctively British to write about these chance encounters that make people come together and form friendships (and sometimes fall in love). This was my experience in the UK. I never formed friendships when I wanted to find a friend; it was always something accidental and random, either in a busy café where you are forced to sit together or also in one enterprise project when I accidentally found a good friend from an upper-class background which I would have never chosen had I looked for a friend, but a random encounter made it happen. It was the same with collaborations; it was always random and unexpected and British authors beautifully portray that culture, with David Nicholls being one of Britain’s best.

I am so thrilled with You Are Here that I will be re-reading books by Nicholls despite reading them all before. But, apart from One Day, I did not write blogs about his books either because I read them before I had a blog or because I had a blog but wasn’t blogging due to focusing on stuff that does not matter. His books deserve blogs, every one of them because David Nicholls is the best of Britain and one of many authors who make the country and its contribution to the world’s literature outstanding.

You Are Here is a beautiful story centred on walking and celebrating nature as well as human connection, listening to one another, and taking an interest in humans, and also ultimately, this is a book about loneliness exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marnie is a divorced copywriter from London and working from home. The work-from-home started before the pandemic, but before the pandemic, she would still go out and do stuff whereas since the pandemic, she found herself without motivation to go anywhere or do anything other than stay at home, work and read several books a week. Michael is a geography teacher from York currently going through a divorce from his wife Nat and struggles to stay in a house that used to be their home whilst also trying to sell it and waiting for Nat to come and pick up her stuff, so he likes walking and spends a lot of time outdoors. These are two different reactions to loneliness and hurt but both believable and real and the book portrays their stories beautifully.

A joint friend of the two, Cleo, also a teacher, convinces Michael to organise a group walk and she invites Marnie. She practically bullies both into hanging out with others, getting out of loneliness and being on their own. She has Tessa in mind as a perfect match for Michael and Conrad for Marnie. Tessa, based on the description is an athlete and a very active person managing everything, which does not seem like a match for Michael. Tessa does not come to the walk due to work duties and Conrad leaves very soon due to hating countryside. Whilst Conrad was still walking and talking to Marnie, the most striking thing for me was that he simply did not listen, just waited to interrupt and talk about himself. It could not be further away from Marnie’s wants and needs; it is almost comical that Cleo would put them together. After everyone leaves, it is just Marnie and Michael walking.

You Are Here then moves towards following the development of friendship between Marnie and Michael who carry on walking in the English countryside going towards the coast. Apart from countryside descriptions, we read a wonderful conversation between Marnie and Michael including talking about books and listening to each other’s music divided into separate chapters when they talk about songs they listen in a very humorous way, and we learn about their lives not just through thoughts (which is how the book starts) but also through a conversation during walking together because they open up to each other. This part was absolutely beautiful, and it is exactly how a conversation between two people forming a friendship, and then falling for each other would happen in real life.

In a way, You Are Here and the sentiment the book created reminded me also of the film American Beauty and a series of films, Before Sunset and Before Sunrise. In the case of American Beauty, the book shows the importance of listening to one another and having human interactions, which reminded me of the scene with leaves and a bag dancing in the wind. In terms of Before Sunset and Before Sunrise which is all about a chance encounter developing into an in-depth conversation, then friendship and then love, I similarly saw these two, talking and developing friendship and then potentially more…

You Are Here is a beautiful story, skilfully written in a way that makes one think about what is important in life, nature and how we interact with it, books, music, loneliness and human interaction. You Are Here is another masterpiece by David Nicholls and a must-read for anyone who loves reading and wants to read a meaningful book that celebrates what is most important in life. I’d love it if there was a continuation of this book.

Beautiful! Inspiring! One of the best books I’ve ever read! Read this!!!

Thank you for reading!

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