Friday, September 16, 2016

The 6:41 to Paris, by Jean-Phillipe Blondel

The action of this short novel is almost all interior and covers only the length of time it takes to travel by express train from a small town not far from Paris back into the city.  Weary after a difficult weekend with her elderly parents in her hometown, and regretting her impulsive decision to stay over Sunday evening instead of leaving as usual at the end of the weekend, Cecile grabs the second to last seat in her compartment.  But as the train pulls out, the seat is taken by a middle-aged man.  To her dismay, she realizes that despite his changed appearance (not for the better), her companion is Phillipe Leduc, a man with whom she had a brief affair when she was twenty and he slightly older.  The end of that affair, on a short trip to London, so affected her that, despite being married, the mother of a teenaged daughter, and having a very successful career, she has never really gotten over the humiliation.  In fact, she has never even been able to bring herself to visit London again.  Phillipe, who is going to Paris to visit a dying friend, also recognizes her, but like her, decides to pretend he doesn’t.  He’s not exactly proud of his actions many years ago.  Will they speak?  146 pp.

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