Juliette lives a quiet life in Paris. She rides the metro every day to her job in a real estate office. She rides the metro home. She spends a quiet evening in her apartment, and then rises to do it all again the next morning. One of the bright spots in her days is observing the other passengers as she rides the metro to and from work. She takes note of what they are reading and constructs elaborate stories about who they are and why they are reading the book they are reading. One morning, Juliette disembarks the train at an earlier station, deciding that she will walk the remainder of her commute. As she makes her way through the unfamiliar streets, she notices a gate being held open by a book. Curious, she opens the gate and steps into a small courtyard where an office is located. She enters the office and discovers that it is filled with books. There are books of every type and size, old and new, fiction and non-fiction, in small piles and towering stacks. In the midst of the books is Soliman. He is a bookseller, of sorts, and recruits Juliette to assist him. He challenges her to take some of the books from his office and match them with their ideal reader. Suddenly, Juliette’s amusement to pass the time on the metro is a goal to be attained. But, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, is it possible to get to know a stranger well enough, fast enough to provide them with their ideal read?
In The Girl Who Reads on the Metro, Christine Feret-Fleury tells a delightful tale about the love and power of books and the need for all of us to move beyond our zones of comfort. It is a type of literary fairy tale where many of the mundanities of life are referenced, but never focused upon, and there is always time to read another book or spend time talking about a book with a friend over tea. However, like many fairy tales, there is a dark edge to the story, one that firmly grounds it in reality, keeping it from being completely overtaken with whimsy.
The Girl Who Reads on the Metro is a lovely read that is simultaneously reassuring and rousing, challenging readers to step beyond what we know and to find our best selves.