Cécile, a 47-year-old woman, is on her way back into the city after visiting her family on the weekend. Always leaving her drained, she settles in for the long train ride to Paris, expecting a routine journey she’s made before. That is until a man sits down next to her and she recognizes him as Philippe, someone she had an affair with 30 years ago before being humiliated. The next 1.5 hours unfold as the two separately replay their history together, deciding whether to say anything to each other.
Originally written in French, and translated by Alison Anderson, The 6:41 to Paris is a fairly quick read at 146 pages. The narrative comes out in almost a stream of consciousness style, which made it a bit difficult to adjust to initially. There’s no indication of the narrator switching between Cécile and Philippe so, coupled with the constant flow of thought, it was challenging to follow at first until I got the rhythm down.
At times I felt that this story could have played out as a one-act play, which may not necessarily be the most interesting production unless they took the inner monologues and recollections of the past out into the open. I enjoyed seeing how their history unfolded, the tension between the two as they both know the other’s existence but resist in being the first to acknowledge it. The build up of their relationship and subsequent falling out made the present-day encounter on the train somewhat suspenseful.