Translated by Ros Schwartz
Working at a job he hates, Guylain Vignolles has but one pleasure in life. Sitting on the 6.27 train each day, Guylain reads aloud. It’s this release of words into the world that starts our hero on a journey that will finally bring meaning into his life. For one morning, Guylain discovers the diary of a lonely young woman: Julie, who feels as lost in the world as he does.
This is a tale bursting with larger-than-life characters, each of whom touches Guylain’s life for the better. This captivating novel is a warm, funny fable about literature’s power to uplift even the most downtrodden of lives.
A friend lent me a hard copy of this book saying, “It’s a fun read, I think you’ll like it! You could probably blow through it in an afternoon.”
And I totally could have but no, I had to be cute about it. I read it on the train home after we parted. I put random moments at home towards it, as it’s hard to fit a paper book in my work bag. A huge chunk of my reading time is on my commute so my progress suffered, and this ‘afternoon read’ took over a month to complete.
First things first – it’s not the book’s fault. Didierlaurent weaves a charming story that reminded me in some ways of The Red Notebook. I like the way details are unspooled over time and the characters kept me interested. The pages of text Guylain reads on the train may have been the best parts. In a way that was frustrating – why wasn’t the whole book written like that? – but the contrast sets off differences nicely so I can’t complain too much.
The whole thing feels a little thin when stretched out over weeks but it would have been perfect on a lazy weekend. So if you’re in the mood for charming with a side of ‘book on books’ give this a go – and set some quality time aside for it so you don’t end up like me.