My book club’s choice for this month was The Reader on The 6.27, the first novel by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent who has previously written short stories. A bestseller in France, this is a book that is now an international bestseller and a Waterstones book of the month choice.
‘Guylain was a breath of fresh air who, for the duration of the twenty-minute journey, allowed them briefly to forget the tedium of their lives’
Beautifully translated by Ros Schwartz, this charming little book tells the story of Guylain Vignolles. Guylain is a man who lives a solitary life with only his pet goldfish, Rouget de Lisle, to come home to. He works at a book pulping factory, a job he hates as he sees books destroyed by the lorry load. There is only one thing that he takes from his job that brings him joy – reading. Each day he gets the train at the same time and each time he recites passages from the pages he has saved from the jaws of the pulping machine. And each day he is joined by a rapt audience who come to listen to Guylain read, eliminating the tedium of their journey. He becomes set into this routine but one day he finds something new to read that could change his life forever…
‘Guylain reread the piece three times…And each time, he felt the same enchantment in this woman’s company’
Guylain finds a lost USB stick containing the diary entries of a lonely young woman who works as a toilet attendant. And it transpires that this woman, Julie, feels as lost in the world as Guylain does. As he continues to read her entries he becomes more and more captivated by her, and he begins his journey to find her. This is a very sweet story with brilliant characters to love and hate. I was very sympathetic towards Guylain and his gentle nature and along with him I was intrigued about Julie and her stories. There are also darker characters including Guylain’s unpleasant boss and the presence of the pulping machine known as ‘The Thing’ – a monster that destroys the very thing that brings Guylain happiness, and a purpose. But as the story progresses we learn that Guylain’s mundane life may be set to change and that there may be hope and adventure to come for our protagonist.
‘What dream could he be pursuing that kept him going without ever giving up?’
At just under 200 pages The Reader On The 6.27 is quite a short book but it was an enjoyable read. This is a lovely story about love, loneliness and the power of literature. It is a story of one man and his journey through words and books to find love and adventure.