So I’ve just finished reading The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent and it was perfectly okay. I definitely enjoyed it while I was reading it, but I also understood that it was the lightest of light entertainment. Indeed, The Reader on the 6.27 is literally light (it’s just shy of 200 pages) but also figuratively so, with no real standout moments or characters. It was the equivalent of a little literary snack – fairly enjoyable at the time but of little consequence in the end. I have no doubt that someday (sooner rather than later) I’ll have forgotten all about it.
The Reader on the 6.27 follows Guylain Vignolles, a man living a rather boring and unsatisfactory life. He works in a book pulping plant, where everyday he sees thousands of novels get murdered and smushed into a pulp in a vast and unrelenting machine called the Zerstor. His only source of escapism (other than his esteemed goldfish) is the 6.27 train into work, where he pulls out pages of different, ill fated novels that he has rescued from the machine and reads them out loud to the train carriage. He starts to become known for this, and he often finds he has a captive audience who can’t wait to hear disjointed bits of prose on the morning commute. The actual plot of Reader begins when Guylain finds a memory stick on the train one day which happens to contain the diary of Julie, a young woman who is similarly bewildered by life. Guylain starts to read out pieces of her diary, and soon becomes infatuated with her, resolving that he must find her.
It is interesting getting to know Guylain and seeing his life at the pulping plant. There are a few oddball characters there that liven things up, and there are a few sections which have some nice imagery or implications. Exemplifying them would take away from the best reason to read this novel however, so I’m not going to do it. It is good that the general writing is enjoyable enough, because the first beat of the ‘plot’ doesn’t actually happen till 100 pages in, when Guylain finds Julie’s diary.
I also have a pretty major gripe with this too. The finding of the diary was glossed over in the blurb on the back of the book, and it wasn’t told how and where Guylain found it. Therefore, I assumed that Guylain would find the diary as being a result of (a) him working in the pulping plant or (b) him reading on the train. When you think of a novel as cause and effect, one of these two has to be the case. I thought, personally, Guylain would find the diary in a pile of books ready to be pulped, thus tying everything together. But no, Guylain finds the diary on a memory stick, which doesn’t really have to do with much of anything. Yes, he finds it on the train, but that doesn’t really mean much either. He could have found it anywhere, and it wouldn’t have made any difference. Therefore, there’s no real central ‘thing’ tying this novel together. The two elements – the pulping/the reading and then the diary – exist separate from each other and it feels very disjointed.
It’s just all very nice, really. There’s not much else to it. There’s no sharp edge to it, there’s no deep philosophy (at least not one worth seeking). It’s just nice. And it’s also short, which may be the source of many of it’s problems. If I had more time to get to know Guylain and his friends, something may have sparked. I read Reader in about 3 ½ hours so I can’t really not recommend it. Because I come back to what I said at the start of the review. It was enjoyable at the time. And I guess that’s good, right?
The Reader on the 6.27 is a novel that suffers from it’s brevity. The brief glimpse into the life of Guylain Vignolles really doesn’t feel substantial enough to leave a lasting impression. If it was a bit beefier, both in length and scope, there could have really been something special in it. However, Reader feels like it’s over before it’s begun, leading to a tale that is nice enough while it’s occurring, but feels of little consequence in the end.
THE READER ON THE 6.27 by JEAN-PAUL DIDIERLAURENT