After reading the brief Grief is the Thing with Feathers I turned to The Reader on the 6:27, which at 194 pages is much longer – but still likely the second shortest book I’ve read in a very long time.
And here’s the thing. It’s too long.
The Reader on the 6:27 is the story of Guylain Vignolles a menial worker in a factory that’s sold purpose is to pulp books. I can, of course, relate to Guylain’s horror at all those lovely books being pulped, so full of potential, but not quite achieving it.
Every night he rescues from the machine some of the pages that have been pulped, and then, the next morning reads them aloud to his fellow passengers on his morning train.
It’s a wonderful hook, but what follows are two completely separate plots. While they don’t detract from each other, nor do they particularly compliment each other.
Guylain finds a memory stick one day, and reads the excerpts of the diary he finds on it. He reads it on the train, and then subsequently to the residents of the old people’s home he’s invited to visit by some of his passengers.
He falls in love with the writer of the diary entries and proceeds to track her down in her job as a cleaning attendant in a shopping centre toilet. His reading out loud on the train and the the subsequent consequences of that has no impact on his quest for his mysterious love.
It’s almost like the writer had a good idea, wrote it, and then realising it was a bit too short, fished in his ideas pool, found another good idea and stitched it together. It all feels a bit like padding, and I’m not sure entirely what the writer is trying to do.
Perhaps I’m too dense, or maybe there is no point to get.
The ideas ARE good however, and along with the writing and the unique cast of characters, they make a charming little book. It’s just a little galling that the publisher then slapped an £8.99 price point on it.