Monday, 7 December 2015

The Reader on the 6.27

The Reader on the 6.27 is one of those runaway best-sellers which owe their success to their unique charm, in this case French charm – think Amélie crossed with Mr Penunbra’s 24-hour Bookstore.

Guylain Vignolles, teased as a schoolboy because of his unfortunate name (Vilain Guignol translates as ‘ugly puppet’), works at a paper pulping plant, manning the monstrous, book devouring machine: the Zerstor. Guylain loves books however and takes comfort in rescuing pages from the Zerstor’s clutches to read out loud on his commuter train.

Julie has an equally unlovely job, keeping the toilets pristine at a busy shopping mall. She dreams that someday a white knight will rescue her and spends her days writing a journal, which she stores on a USB stick. It seems unlikely that the paths of Guylain and Julie will ever cross, until one day Julie accidentally leaves the USB on her train.

Along the way, we are treated to a little more of Guylain’s quiet life, which is slowly expanded when two old ladies take delight in Guylain’s readings and invite him to read at their retirement home. We also get to meet Guylain’s unlikely friends: the pulp factory security guard, Yvon, who speaks in Alexandrine verse, and Giuseppe, who used to run the Zerstor, until a terrible accident robbed him of his legs.

In some ways this is a novel about redemption, and in particular the importance of literature, of all kinds, and the way it can bring people together. This might sound as wet as the paper pulp produced by the Zerstor, but there is a droll humour that runs through the book and with that French charm I mentioned before, I can see why this one’s such a winner.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Reader on the 6.27

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