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"A strong plot and a touching portrayal of how any of us might feel when unexpectedly confronted by the detritus of young love ... The 6:41 to Paris is a timely reminder that the past is always waiting to ambush us."The New York Times Sunday Book Review
"Perfectly written and a remarkably suspenseful read ... an absorbing, intriguing, insightful book for all readers."Library Journal (Starred review)
Cécile, a stylish forty-seven-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 thirty 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 journeyIn silence? What could they possibly say to one another?with the reader gaining entrée to the most private of thoughts. This is a psychological thriller about past romance, with all its pain and promise.
Reading group guide is available from New Vessel Press.
|Publisher:||New Vessel Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
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 best-seller in both France and Germany.
Alison Anderson is a novelist and translator whose previous translations include The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love books that take place in Paris so I knew as soon as I saw the title I wanted to read it. It’s a really short book at only 170 pages, but it’s impact on you will be huge. Imagine being seated on a train with a ride of one and a half hours in front of you. Suddenly someone sits down in the empty seat beside you. Of course you look at the person. Now imagine that person is someone who you knew thirty years ago. A person you had an affair with. A person who hurt you badly and embarrassed you terribly. What would go through your mind? What would go through his? This is the situation that Cecile and Philippe find themselves in. In this book you’ll read the thoughts and conversations of Cecile and Philippe, told in alternate chapters. I loved getting into the heads of Cecile and Philippe. I can’t imagine being in that situation. I would just not say anything and pretend to sleep :) This is a book unlike any I’ve ever read, and it is well worth the time it takes to read it. I would definitely recommend this book.
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. 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. 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. 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.