Translated By: Ros Schwartz
Published By: Pan Macmillan
Released On: 10/03/2016
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 from pages he has saved from the jaws of his monstrous pulping machine. But it is when he discovers the diary of a lonely young woman, Julie – a woman who feels as lost in the world as he does – that his journey will truly begin.
I saw this recommended on Twitter a few times and so I took the plunge and ordered it. When I first started it, I thought “oh what a beautiful little gem of a book this is”. Sadly that thought didn’t sustain. And whilst it was never bad, it also wasn’t spectacular. It just sort of plodded along, very gentle, until we got to the end. Pleasant enough but not all that memorable.
My mum used to volunteer for a charity, and if they had books they couldn’t sell, they’d be pulped and it would just break my heart. I was tempted to just go in and buy them all just so they could be saved.
I will admit that, at times, it was a great love letter to the power of books, literature and reading.
It is a bit of a peculiar book. There’s no real definite plot in my mind, it’s more how Guylian goes from day to day, his thoughts, his interactions, rather than what he is actually doing.
I do feel it got worse as it went on. I really enjoyed the beginning, with the talk of his workplace and his love for books and whatnot, but it soon took a different turn and almost felt like it was two separate books. Guylian became a very creepy and uncomfortable character that I didn’t enjoy. I liked him at first, liking his love for the written word, but he just went too far and I ended up not liking him.
I also feel more could have been made of the other characters. There’s a few of them, a colleague, a boss, a friend, a stranger, but none of them are developed enough to really make any difference to the book.
It’s not a bad book as such. It’s quick and easy to read, some of it is heartwarming. But overall, it just wasn’t my thing. It was a bit all over the place and didn’t hit the heights I was expecting. Perhaps that’s due to the translation and it’s better in its native language, who knows. But I didn’t find it settled on a genre or a plot or a theme or a character.
It feels like the author’s meant for it to be quirky, and it felt like it thought it had more importance than it actually did; all of it just felt a bit off. I’m glad I’ve read it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it.