Why our reviewer found The Reader on the 6.27 life-changing

Miranda Spary, hard at work reviewing The Reader on the 6.27.

Miranda Spary, hard at work reviewing The Reader on the 6.27.

Book reviewer Miranda Spary sees the world differently after reading The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent.

Sometimes fiction can make you see the world you live in so differently that you wonder how you could have been so unaware beforehand. I’ve just had that experience with The Reader on the 6.27 by French author Jean-Paul Didierlaurent.

The book’s hero is Guylain Vignolles, a sad sack leading a very small life. He hates his job and his boss at a factory that turns unsold books into pulp. His only friends are a goldfish and a former workmate who lost his legs in the terrifying book-pulping machine.

Guylain feels so guilty about destroying books for a living that he saves any unpulped pages he finds in the guts of the machine each day, drying them out over night and reading these random morsels of words to his fellow passengers on the train to work. The anonymous commuters are as desperate for communication with other people as he is.

Things change when one day he finds a USB stick stuck in a seat. It contains the diary and thoughts of a girl who cleans the toilets in a shopping mall. Her descriptions of her “customers” and their habit of ignoring her as if she weren’t a fellow human (not to mention some of their loathsome toilet habits) are just brilliant. Guylain falls in love with this mystery girl and tries to track her down to return the USB stick.

For such a small book, it packs a huge punch. Even though the characters lead such tedious lives, they all have quirks and foibles that make them fascinating. It’s a very French story and is recommended for anyone who loved Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog with its secretly intellectual, philosophy-loving concierge.

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This book is wake-up call to get to know the seemingly invisible “nobodies” we encounter every day. But like the story snippets Guylain reads on the train, The Reader on the 6.27 is heartbreakingly short, and readers of this book will only wish this book lasted longer.

The Reader on the 6.27 is available from Paper Plus for $29.99

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