I found this book on the staff recommendation shelf of my local library. It looked and sounded interesting and was short, something I needed while I caught up on my audiobooks and NetGalley requests. This book was…not exactly what I was expecting.
Juliette leads a perfectly ordinary life in Paris, working a slow office job, dating a string of not-quite-right men, and fighting off melancholy. The only bright spots in her day are her metro rides across the city and the stories she dreams up about the strangers reading books across from her: the old lady, the math student, the amateur ornithologist, the woman in love, the girl who always tears up at page 247.
One morning, avoiding the office for as long as she can, Juliette finds herself on a new block, in front of a rusty gate wedged open with a book. Unable to resist, Juliette walks through, into the bizarre and enchanting lives of Soliman and his young daughter, Zaide. Before she realizes entirely what is happening, Juliette agrees to become a passeur, Soliman’s name for the booksellers he hires to take stacks of used books out of his store and into the world, using their imagination and intuition to match books with readers. Suddenly, Juliette’s daydreaming becomes her reality, and when Soliman asks her to move in to their store to take care of Zaide while he goes away, she has to decide if she is ready to throw herself headfirst into this new life.
Big-hearted, funny, and gloriously zany, The Girl Who Reads on the Metro is a delayed coming-of-age story about a young woman who dares to change her life, and a celebration of the power of books to unite us all.
This book is pretty strange. Nothing about this book feels like something that would actually happen, and I’m OK with that because there are a lot of weird things going on in such a tiny book.
Juliette was actually a pretty decent main character. I empathized with her boring routine and can obviously appreciate her relationship with reading/books. That being said, everyone else was pretty wack. Soliman, who is only in the story for a blip, seems too eccentric and his daughter is basically a mini-adult, which honestly makes me kind of sad for her.
The summary describes this book as “funny and gloriously zany” but I have to disagree. I don’t remember laughing while reading this and I think it goes a bit beyond zany. It must just be that this book was not written for me because I really was not clicking with the plot or writing style.
There are two aspects of the plot that I enjoyed: the first being the concept of giving people the books they need at that time and the second being Juliette’s development into someone more adventurous. The rest of the book has me simultaneously scratching my head and snoozing.
This is one of those books where I can’t exactly pinpoint what I disliked, which leads me to believe I’m not this book’s intended audience. I feel like if you’re into more philosophical and rhetorical writing and read more “classics” (as in, not YA like me) you would enjoy this more than I did. Though this is a quick read and does have some charming qualities I wouldn’t rush to recommend this book.