This is so far from my usual read, it’s not sci-fi, it’s not fantasy and it’s not really a romance, to be honest I’ve no idea what you’d classify The Reader as. Anyway, the point is that I picked it up on a whim, thinking it looked interesting and not knowing what to expect. Except reading on trains, obviously.
“Guylain Vignolles lives on the edge of existence. Working at a book pulping factory in a job he hates, he has but one pleasure in life . . .
Sitting on the 6.27 train each day, Guylain recites aloud from pages he has saved from the jaws of his monstrous pulping machine. But it is when he discovers the diary of a lonely young woman, Julie – a woman who feels as lost in the world as he does – that his journey will truly begin . . .”
The basic premise is that Guylain works for a book pulping plant and thinks his work is evil, destroying books is sacrilege and he takes a vindictive pleasure in rescuing the odd pages that get stuck in the machinery. Every day he reads these random pages to a carriage full of commuters, then one day he finds a USB on the seat, and upon discovering that it contains someones diary, decides to read that on the train too. This is how he (and we) meets Julie.
This book is such a lovely little read. I’ve been trying since I finished it to think of something to say about it other than ‘it’s a lovely book’ and I honestly have no idea how to describe it. The whole thing feels like a snapshot of someone’s life rather than the whole story, and that was very interesting to read, it’s quite different and unique amongst the other books on my ‘Read’ Shelf. This is mostly a story about one man finding meaning in his life, about his loneliness and his love for his friends and his books. We grow to love Guylain and we want him to be happy. It is well written and captures the imagination of the reader, although there is one page I never want to read again, a particularly vivid description of the noises people make when they use the toilet. It was traumatising.
I particularly enjoyed the arc concerning Guylain’s friend, Giuseppe, a man who lost his legs to the pulping machine and is on a mission to have them returned to him. The Reader on the 6.27 is full of interesting concepts and characters, full of charm and slightly odd humour. It’s a delightful tale of loneliness and the redemptive power of reading. 4 Stars.