Nobody ever talks to strangers on the train. It’s a rule. But what would happen if they did? From the New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of The Authenticity Project, a heartwarming novel about unexpected friendships and the joy of connecting.
Every day Iona, a larger-than-life magazine advice columnist, travels the ten stops from Hampton Court to Waterloo Station by train, accompanied by her dog, Lulu. Every day she sees the same people, whom she knows only by nickname: Impossibly-Pretty-Constant-Reader and Terribly-Lonely-Teenager. Of course, they never speak. Seasoned commuters never do.
Then one morning, the man she calls Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader chokes on a grape right in front of her. He’d have died were it not for the timely intervention of Sanjay, a nurse, who gives him the Heimlich maneuver.
This single event starts a chain reaction, and an eclectic group of people with almost nothing in common except their commute discover that a chance encounter can blossom into much more. It turns out that talking to strangers can teach you about the world around you – and even more about yourself.
I enjoyed The Authenticity Project, but The People on Platform 5 takes feelgood to a whole new level. Warm, funny and totally relatable – it’s a masterclass in how to write a heartwarming story.
Magazine therapist Iona, high-flyer Piers, cancer nurse Sanjay, pretty bookworm Emmie (who Sanjay fancies like mad) and teenager Martha are thrown together every day on a journey of ten stops from Hampton Court to Waterloo Station. We also meet David, whose marriage is on the rocks, gym owner Jake and of course Iona’s dog Lulu who has her own seat on the train and God help anyone who tries to sit there.
No-one ever speaks – Iona’s first rule of commuting – until one morning the man opposite starts to choke on a grape and Sanjay comes to the rescue. And this mismatched group of misfits (my apologies for calling them that – it’s not meant as an insult) are forced to speak to each other. And Iona is the glue that holds them together.
This is such a lovely story and I adored reading it in daily staves with my online book club friends, as we could discuss all the characters and their sometimes strange behaviour. Why does Iona think she is an old, saggy, baggy, has-been at 57? She had a colourful life, so why give up now? And why does Piers behave like a 50-year-old when he is only 38? We did laugh at some of the crazy goings-on and never more so than at the tale of Sanjay’s mother Meera and her innocent use of inappropriate emojis.
It’s such a happy book, though often tinged with sadness, because not everything can be fixed. And it also inspired what is now my new favourite hashtag #bemoreiona.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.
About the Author
Clare Pooley graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge and spent twenty years in the heady world of advertising. Clare’s memoir – The Sober Diaries – has helped thousands of people around the world to quit drinking. The Authenticity Project, Clare’s first novel, was a New York Times bestseller, a BBC Radio 2 book club pick, and winner of the RNA debut novel award.
Clare’s second novel – The People on Platform 5 in the UK, and Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting in the USA – is out now.