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Likely Stories: The Girl Who Reads on the Métro, by Christine Fèret-Fleury


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

One of my best collections are those set in a bookstore.  I now have about 20, and these are all wonderful stories.  The latest edition to this list is The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Ferret-Fleury.  She is an author based in France, and this is her first book translated into English.  She is also being published around the world.


Juliette has a job working for a small real estate agency, which she finds boring.  She discovers a bookstore.  Christine writes, “Juliette took three steps forward, reached out, and gingerly touched the pages swollen from the damp.  She ran her tongue over her upper lip.  Seeing a book wedged between two metal doors hurt her almost more than drowning a spider.  Gently she leaned her shoulder against one of the double doors and heaved; the book slid a little further down.  She caught it and, with her shoulder still to the door, raised the book to her face. // She always loved the smell of books, especially when she bought them secondhand.  New books had different smells, too depending on the paper and glue used, but they said nothing of the hands that had held them, the houses that had been their home; they had no history of their own yet, separate from the ones they told—a parallel story, hazy, secret” (15).

A young girl leads her to her father’s bookstore.  Juliette is intrigued and they begin talking to the owner.  Christine writes, “‘I work in property.  But my grandfather was a bookseller.  I used to love his shop when I was little.  I loved helping him.  I adored the smell of books…’” (23).  Juliette was now late for work.

Juliette learns about the story of Soliman and Books Unlimited.  He explains a theory of “Book Crossing.”  Cristine writes, “What we need is a way of tracking the books that had been ‘released,’ following their journey and allowing readers to share their impressions” (28).  I recall this practice some years ago, but I never got any feedback, so that idea fell to the wayside.

Soliman supports this idea of a passeur.  Christine writes, “It was the first, her first as a book passeur, though Juliette, feeling the chosen book through the thick fabric of her bag—but had she chosen it?’’ […] She decided on “A female reader.  It would be a woman, no question.  Men don’t read in the bath.  Besides, men don’t take baths; they’re always in a hurry” (41).

Picking out a stranger, imagining what the stranger might want, or like, or even hate, must be a difficult decision.  The Girl Who Reads on the Métro by Christine Fèret-Fleury is a marvelous story for all book lovers, collectors, and book hoarders.  5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production or KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and Happy Reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.