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The 6:41 to Paris

The 6:41 to Paris

The 6:41 to Paris

by Jean-Philippe Blondel

literary fiction

Translated by Alison Anderson

Release date: November 10, 2015
at New Vessel Press

153  pages

ISBN: 978-1939931269

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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this ebook for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges

                  New-Release-Challenge French Bingo 2015 logo  New Authors 2015

                  2015 ebook    2015 Translation 

     

     MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

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One thing that I have always loved when living in France was traveling by train. I have met interesting people and it allows you both to have a good view of where you are going through while leaving ample room to your own thoughts, as the two characters in The 6:41 To Paris experience. Plus, the author and a character are from Troyes, in the Champagne region, where I spent several years, so I had an extra interest for this book.

map Troyes-Paris

It’s early on Monday. Cécile exceptionally decided to stay Sunday night with her elderly parents in Troyes, a mid-size city in the Champagne region roughly 100 miles south east of Paris. So she takes the early 6:41 train to get back to her place in Paris.
Philippe is also exceptionally on that train, on his way to visit a special friend. He ends up sitting on the empty seat next to Cécile.
Right away, they recognize each other: they had an affair almost thirty years before, and it didn’t end well at all.
Little by little, we learn what really happened back then.

So what are they going to do? Pretend they have never met and stay each in his and her own bubble? Reconnect? With small talk? Or more seriously, to mend the relationship? You will have to read the book to see, as this is the important part: how would you react in such a situation?
Both in their fifties, they have a lot going on in their respective families to keep busy during the ride focusing on their own thoughts

I really enjoyed this short novel as it looked more closely at what can happen in people’s mind on an early train ride.
The changes of narrator, at least in the English version, are not always clear cut, and sometimes you wonder for a while if Cécile or Philippe is the narrator. It may be clearer in French because of the grammar (adjectives agree in gender for instance), but I liked it this way in English: for me, it helped to convey the confusion of personalities in the métro-boulot-dodo society –common French expression, literary subway-work-bed, to express the meaningless life so many have to go through with no time left after commute, work, and sleep.
Each character is seen daydreaming and reminiscing, thinking aloud for the reader, re-examining their lives, past and present, their work and life situations.

Only insomnia occasionally sets you free, by revealing the futility of everything you’ve undertaken.
p.48

There are also neat passages with more positive elements about traveling by train.

I thought this was a great critic of our cold artificial individualistic society, where we can too easily be reduced to roles or façades and no longer considered as persons. But is it really too late to change the course? The book ultimately proposes an answer in its last pages.

EN DEUX MOTS :

J’ai vraiment apprécié ce court roman qui se penche sur ce qui peut arriver dans l’esprit des gens, un lundi matin, tôt, dans le train.
Les changements de narrateur, au moins dans la version anglaise, ne sont pas toujours clairs. On se demande parfois pendant un certain temps si Cécile ou Philippe est le narrateur. C’est peut-être plus clair en français, mais j’ai aimé cet aspect en anglais : pour moi, cela aide à accentuer l’idée de la confusion des personnalités souvent présente dans la société du métro-boulot-dodo.
Chacun des deux personnages révasse et se souvient, pense à haute voix pour le lecteur, et relit sa vie
.
Cer ouvrage est pour moi une bonne critique de notre société individualiste, froide et artificielle, où nous pouvons trop facilement nous trouver réduits à des rôles ou des façades et non plus considérés comme des personnes.
Mais est-il vraiment trop tard pour changer le cours ? Le livre propose une réponse dans ses dernières pages.

VERDICT: Short dense novel highlighting the rampant anonymity of our individualistic society, but also how a simple train ride can invite you to re-examine your life and your connections.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

Cecile, a stylish 47-year-old, has spent the weekend visiting her parents in a provincial town southeast of Paris. By early Monday morning, she’s exhausted. These trips back home are always stressful and she settles into a train compartment with an empty seat beside her. But it’s soon occupied by a man she instantly recognizes: Philippe Leduc, with whom she had a passionate affair that ended in her brutal humiliation 30 years ago. In the fraught hour and a half that ensues, their express train hurtles towards the French capital. Cécile and Philippe undertake their own face to face journey—In silence? What could they possibly say to one another?—with the reader gaining entrée to the most private of thoughts. This is a brilliant psychological thriller, a high-wire act of emotions on rails, about past romance, with all its pain and promise.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jean-philippe Blondel

Jean-Philippe Blondel
was born in 1964 in Troyes, France
where he lives as an author and English teacher.
His novel The 6:41 to Paris
has been a bestseller in both France and Germany.

 ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

Alison Anderson is a novelist and translator of literature from French. Among the authors she has translated are JMG Le Clézio, Christian Bobin, Muriel Barbery and Amélie Nothomb. She has lived in Northern California and currently lives in a village in Switzerland.
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