cover image The 6:41 to Paris

The 6:41 to Paris

Jean-Philippe Blondel, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson. New Vessel (, $14.95 trade paper (170p) ISBN 978-1-939931-26-9

Two former lovers find themselves sitting next to each other on a train after 27 years apart in Blondel’s novel, a bestseller in Europe, told through alternating interior monologues by both parties. Cécile, now a successful entrepreneur living in Paris, is on her way home early in the morning after a weekend spent caring for her aging parents. She notes with no small satisfaction that her accidental companion, Philippe, has not aged so gracefully. As Cécile correctly surmises, Philippe, en route to Paris to visit a dying friend, is recently divorced and somewhat aimless. Their overlapping narratives, unfolding over the course of their commute, lend insights into their former selves and the feelings of inadequacy and ambivalence that are perhaps endemic to middle age. Translator Anderson does an exceptional job of capturing Cécile’s and Philippe’s voices, and effectively explores the meaning of the (English) phrase “take care” that closes the novel. There’s suspense in the question of whether the two will gin up the courage to talk to each other, but that’s really beside the point, as their thoughts compellingly trace the meandering paths between who they once were and who they are now. (Nov.)