The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Féret-Fleury, translated by Ros Schwartz -review

Published by Pan Macmillan

Publication date – 1 October 2020

Source- own copy

When Juliette takes the métro to her loathed office job each morning, her only escape is in books – she avidly reads on her journey and imagines what her fellow commuters’ choices might say about them.

Then she meets Soliman – the mysterious owner of the most enchanting bookshop Juliette has ever seen – and things will never be the same again. For Soliman believes in the power of books to change the course of a life, and he’s about to change Juliette’s forever . . .

Juliette is sleepwalking through life. She hates her job and feels quite alone. Her only solace is in books, reading them and imagining the lives of her commuters through the books she sees them read. One day she gets off the Metro a few stops early and stumbles across a bookshop and it’s owner Soliman. That meeting will change Juliette, though she does not yet know it.

Juliette is lonely. She has few friends, little romance in her life and barely sees her parents. She finds solace in books, seeing them as places to escape real life. When she meets Soliman she becomes aware of the power of books, and her ability to divine which ones are needed by the people she meets. She begins to work for Soliman, dispensing his bibliographical medicine to strangers. She picks out a book for a colleague to read, one to use for staging of a property they are trying to sell. She does not have faith in her skills but soon sees that her book giving has results.

There are also changes in Juliette and her life as she spends more and more time at the shop. She becomes close to Soliman and his daughter but more than that she realises she has been sleepwalking through life, taking the path of least resistance. Opening the door to the bookshop also means Juliette has opened up her life to possibilities.

The translation is spot on. I forgot I was reading a translation which is always a good sign. As I usually find with French translated fiction, there is a magical quality to the novel, one that makes the story slightly surreal. There is the sense of a modern day fairy tale within the pages as a result.

This is not a long read, at just over 200 pages but it does not feel rushed or lacking in story. It is, I would say, the perfect length.  Within those pages is the story of a woman saved by books and the possibilities they spark.

The Girl Who Reads on the Metro is an ode to the power of books and the influence they can have on our lives. The right story can find a person at the right time and when it does some magical alchemy comes into play.

 

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