Author: Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, translated by Ros Schwartz
Genre: Literary fiction, Romance
My Rating: 5/5
Summary: “Guylain Vignolles lives on the edge of existence. Working at a book-pulping factory in a job he hates, he has but one pleasure in life …Sitting on the 6.27 train each day, Guylain recites aloud to a rapt audience from pages he has saved from the jaws of the pulping machine. And it’s this release of words into the world that starts our hero on a journey that will finally bring meaning into his life. For one morning, Guylain discovers the diary of a lonely young woman: Julie. A woman who feels as lost in the world as he does. As he reads from these pages to a rapt audience, Guylain finds himself falling hopelessly in love with their enchanting author …”
My Review: Book lovers please read this endearing and charming novel. This is what literature is meant for. It is so delightful to read such books, feels like storybook for adults. I am so gratified after reading this amazing story that I have already ordered other book from this author.
So we have our main character Guylain, who works at a book pulping factory as an operator. He hates his job and the factory so much so that he refuses to acknowledge its existence and personifies the machine as “it” and “destroyer” or “monster” rather than accepting the machine as a simple object that gobbles up books and makes it into a pulp. He dreads the working hours where he has to witness the brutal destruction of thousands of books which he labels as “Genocide”. His only escape is the train he takes to work every morning. In the train he reads from the pages he salvaged from the factory. Never a complete book, just snippets or random pages from unknown book. It gives him peace and a little adventure. And for the audience of the train compartment, some distraction and getaway from their mundane life. But they are random people on the train and he doesn’t know any of them.
His only friends are the security guard in the factory, Yvon Grimbert, who always speaks in alexandrines, his previous co-worker Giuseppe, who lost his limbs in an accident whilst operating the Machine and now spends his time hunting down books made from the same pulp containing his blood and bones. Guylain also has a companion in Rouget de Lisle, a fish, which he keeps at his bedside table, feeding it and talking to it are the only thing he does once he is back in his apartment. So our Guylain has pretty much mundane existence.
But sometimes extraordinary things do happen to ordinary people. One day Guylain finds a USB stick, in the train compartment. He takes it home, opens it and reads it. It contains various diary entries by a girl named Julie. He reads every one of her entries and becomes obsessed with her and her world, eventually falling in love with her. And so his mission begins, finding out who this mysterious Julie is, and is she even real?
Characterization: The characterization of every character in this book is simply brilliant. I loved every character. Guylain is very ordinary but very lovable and sometimes you pity him but he is a strong and very relatable character. The author has skillfully depicted the relationship of Guylain and his work involving the Machine. His relationship with other characters is commending.
The character of Julie was very intriguing for me because she only appears in the diary entries and not in reality which was very unusual for me. Even I wanted to find out who she is and is she real? But I loved her. The exquisite detailing of the characters is remarkable.
What I liked: I bought this book solely based on the back cover at a book sale. I did not even read any reviews for it. I just went with the story and my intuition. The only thing captured my attention was that it was about books. That’s it. And I LOVED IT. ENJOYED it. I am amazed at how much I loved this book. It was like being a little girl again and reading a storybook. That joy is ineffable. I recommend it to every book lover out there.
What I disliked: It was too short! I know I am complaining about a book being too short. But the story was too wonderful for me. I wanted more. But since I can’t have that I can have another book by this author.