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David Nicholls is riding a wave of popularity thanks to the Netflix series based on his 2009 blockbuster "One Day." The publication of his sixth novel, "You Are Here," should see the Booker Prize-longlisted author garnering more acclaim. And deservedly so, for it is a warm, witty and beautifully observed tale about two lonely souls experiencing a new lease on life — and possibly finding romance — while traversing England's green and pleasant land.

If "One Day" unfolded over two decades, then "You Are Here" takes place over 10 days — enough time, it turns out, for Nicholls' characters to cover significant ground, both geographically and emotionally.

We first meet Marnie, a 38-year-old London copy editor going nowhere fast. Since her divorce she has led a solitary existence — working from home, losing friends to marriage and parenthood (or "to apathy or carelessness") and remaining celibate. We are then introduced to 42-year-old Michael, a geography teacher from York, who still feels "cracked and vulnerable, like a cup with a glued-on handle" after his marital break-up and nervous breakdown.

Michael has planned to walk 190 miles across the north of England, from St. Bees in the west to Robin Hood's Bay in the east, to take his mind off his troubles. To his chagrin, a friend creates a walking group to keep him company — one member being Marnie, who reluctantly joins after taking stock of the dire state of her "small and shrinking life." When the other hikers fall by the wayside, Michael and Marnie are left to go it alone.

The partnership shouldn't work. She is a city girl who bemoans the elements and is unmoved by the scenery. He is a nature boy who loves the great outdoors and prefers his own company. Both are awkward and jaded. But after a while they open up and develop a shared intimacy.

He helps her appreciate the sublime surroundings; she makes him laugh again. They drink in pubs, discuss their broken marriages and trade secrets, regrets, playlist songs and origin stories. But now that they have crossed paths, will they keep moving forward in the same direction?

You Are Here
You Are Here

Nicholls' novel offers many delights. The English landscape is vividly rendered as the pair venture up hill and down dale, across moors and fells and along gills and around tarns. The dialogue crackles and there are numerous pithy lines about daily monotony and human connections: "At this time of life, a relationship, it feels like starting a book halfway through."

"You Are Here" lacks the agonies and ecstasies of Nicholls' previous books, from that shock revelation in "One Day" to the depiction of "the brief, blinding explosion of first love" in "Sweet Sorrow" (2019). However, Nicholls still manages to inject drama and pathos into the proceedings, and ensures that we are so invested in his characters that we follow them every step of the way.

Malcolm Forbes, who has written for the Economist and the Wall Street Journal, lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

You Are Here

By: David Nicholls.

Publisher: Harper, 368 pages, $30.