The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Féret-Fleury (translated by Ros Schwartz) is the ultimate book lover story. It’s a beautiful, big hearted, entertaining story of a woman whose life changes when she meets a bookseller and his daughter in the most enchanting bookshop in Paris.
This charming, coming-of-age story is a celebration of the power that books and stories have on our lives and on our hearts. Féret-Fleury makes us take a look at our lives and not only inspires us, but reminds us, that if we’re not happy, we’re the only ones who can change it. And we should, because we only have one life, it’s our duty to live it as much humanly possible.
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.
If you enjoyed The Little Paris Bookshop, then The Girl Who Reads on the Metro is perfect for you. It has so many similar themes about embracing life, finding inspiration and knowing the little moments are the big moments. But the best thing about this story is it’s beautiful message: books have the ability to change your life.
It sounds a little like a cliché, but you can’t underestimate the impact of a book or a novel or a story. There’s a magic in storytelling and each person reading it will be affected in different ways that no one could ever predict – from the mundane to the profound. Someone could read a story and it then holds a place in their soul. Gives them purpose, inspires them and drive them and move them and who knows what amazing things they might do because of it?
Near the end of the novel, Féret-Fleury writes:
“She had ended up believing, no, being convinced, that all the world’s diseases – and all the remedies – were concealed between the covers of books. That in books you found betrayal, solitude, murder, madness, rage – everything that could grab you by the throat and ruin your life, not to mention others’ lives and that sometimes crying over printed pages could save a person’s life? That finding your soulmate in the middle of an African novel, or a Korean tale helped you realise the extent to which human beings suffer from the same ills, the extent to which we are alike, and that it is perhaps possible to talk to one another – to smile, caress one another, exchange signs of recognition, any signs – to try and harm others less from day to day?”– Christine Féret-Fleury, The Girl Who Reads on the Metro
In books we’re reminded that we’re not alone, that someone somewhere knows exactly how we feel and we can take solace in that. Feel comfort in that.
But books also do are inspire us. The right kind of story can give you purpose. As we see in The Girl Who Reads on the Metro.
Because of books, Juliette quits her mundane, 9 to 5 job and follows her heart to work in the bookshop where she helps and looks after the books, the passuers and Zaide.
Because of adventures within pages, Zaide wants to travel, see the world and have her own journeys and adventures.
Because of a touching story, Chloe quit her job after being inspired to start her own company as a wedding planner, making pastry and doing make up and bookkeeping.
Because of a novel, Monsieur Bernard realised what his deepest wish was, and so he boxed up his things and moved out into the forest.
Words and stories and books have the power to change our lives, to inspire us, and show us what it is we really want out of life. But that’s only halfway. What we choose to do about it? Well, that’s up to us.