The Reader on the 6.27 – Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

Guylain Vignolles is what I would call a reflection of the reader. He lives a mundane life, his main three companions include his goldfish and he works an unfulfilling job at a book recycling plant. He hates his job, lying to his mother that he has a successful career in publishing, and like most people dreams of better things. The only thing that remotely stands out about Guylain are his daily readings on the way to the job he despises; he is the reader on the 6.27.

I remember seeing on the cover of the book that it was described as a ‘testimony to the universality of the love of books’, which ultimately is a sentiment I completely agree with. Through Guylain, Didierlaurent reminds the reader of their own love since after all, if they didn’t love books why would they be reading? Whilst the book does include a rather strange yet sweet love affair in its pages, the main relationship is between Guylain and books. From his daily readings on the train, the relationship he forms with the Delacôte sisters, his Yvon’s daily soliloquies and Giuseppe’s quest to “regain” his legs.

Ultimately, it makes sense that it becomes a love story. Whilst I disagree completely with the fact that Guylain decides it’s appropriate to read pages from a lost diary aloud on a train (it’s a private collection of thoughts and I wouldn’t take particularly well to my innermost thoughts being aired to the gaggle of people on board the 10:30 to Doncaster) it makes sense from a narrative perspective.

The passages being read aloud during Guylain’s daily break from the monotony of his life helps the reader to associate Julie with a positive change in his life, as the breaks come whenever he picks up her innermost thoughts rather than waiting for his 20-minute train journey.  Also whilst I don’t agree with the practice in real life, as a narrative tool it allows the reader to know more about Julie by showing rather than telling. Guylain reading aloud fits in with his character, so learning about Julie and her exploits as a toilet attendant are all the more funny when you can imagine it being read like a story.

It also prevents a fairytale ending with a girl the audience knows nothing about. Without the reading of the passages it would simply be Guylain waxing lyrical about a girl he’s never met, but with the inclusion of the diary entries, you begin to see why. Julie isn’t framed by anyone’s narrative but her own, the words in which she is presented are entirely her own. By these words you can tell that Julie is funny, she’s not easily rattled and ultimately there’s a spark to her that’s missing in comparison to Guylain. Whilst she has a mundane job as well (she’s a toilet attendant, it’s hardly an exciting life) she still finds ways to make it fun, and eventually, you see that attitude infect Guylain as well.

Ultimately The Reader on the 6.27 isn’t something I would consider one of my books; it doesn’t fit into the archetype of novels I would read. However, it was a book I was pleasantly surprised by, and whilst it isn’t the best book I’ve ever read in my life it isn’t a book I would never revisit at some point. The book is exactly as it says on the tin, it’s a tool to break away from monotony.

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