In brief: Juliette lives a small, ordered life in Paris which really isn’t that exciting. One day she gets off at a different stop and her life is changed as she becomes a distributor of the right book to the right person…
The good: Interesting premise.
The not-so-good: It just didn’t sparkle for me.
Why I chose it: Books, reading, girls on trains – sounded good. Thanks Pan Macmillan for the copy.
Year: 2019 (Original French edition 2017)
Translator: Ros Schwartz
Publisher: Mantle (Pan Macmillan)
Setting: Paris, France
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
The Girl Who Reads on the Metro is a book of much promise. Paris! Reading! Mysterious people and rooms full of books! Books changing lives! What isn’t there to love? Unfortunately for me, this book didn’t live up to the expectations I put on it. Maybe they were unreasonable, but I was looking for something sparkly and heart-warming. What I read was more procedural and jumbled at times.
Juliette lives what is frankly, a boring life in Paris. She gets up, rides the Metro and goes to work at a real estate agent. She enjoys seeing what other people are reading on the train but we don’t really get much of a look at what Juliette is reading, despite having books on her person and all around her. One day, in search of something different, she gets off the Metro at a different stop and finds her way into an old warehouse. There she meets Soliman, a man with many books and a team of passeurs, who give out just the right book to the right person. Juliette agrees to join the team but we see her give out a few books. She then quits her job to do this fulltime and look after Soliman’s daughter, Zaide.
Juliette meets some interesting characters and takes some risks, but the book never felt fully fleshed out to me. Big events like the death of a character are dealt with in a few sentences and the story jumps around from one thing to the next without fully exploring the potential. The characters never really sparkled or came to life for me. Juliette made big choices in life but they weren’t really explained nor was her character fleshed out enough for me as the reader to understand why. Zaide was the quirkiest and sweetest character in the book by far, but she too doesn’t have much flesh to her except that she’s a sweet kid. Soliman remained a mystery, as did the other passeurs. The book read very procedurally for me, maybe something was lost in translation (although I think Ros Schwartz did a great job in bringing the Paris setting to the English reader). I suppose I was expecting the book and characters to match or exceed the passion I have for books, but it didn’t really work. Great idea, poor execution.
For a charming story set in a Paris bookshop, I would recommend Rebecca Raisin’s The Little Bookshop on the Seine.