Review: The People on Platform 5 by Clare Pooley

I have read somewhere that public transport is the great equalizer. Well, in South Africa our public transport sector is in quite a dismal state, but when we talk about ‘train travel’ I am fortunate to be able to have short train trips in Europe and even a couple of experiences on our very own Gautrain as point of reference. And what is one of the key features of public transport? The fact that it can/should be quite predictable – the same time, the same place, every day.

Thus, as a regular commuter, it would mean that you see the same people every day, not so? But do you ever talk to them? It is an unwritten rule of commuting to just stay in your lane – literally and figuratively.

Speaking of unwritten rules, which was one of the features in this book that I found throughly entertaining. The fact that you do discover these ‘rules’ as the story develops – or to be specific, Iona’s rules.

On that point, who is Iona? Iona Iverson is the key character in this book. In some countries this book is titled “Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting”, by the way. The various chapters are voiced from the entire cast of role player’s point of views, but Iona is by far my favourite. Is it because she is quite an eccentric, no-nonsense and opinionated person, who travels with her Frenchie, Lulu, by her side all the time? If I cannot be her, can I at least be best friends with her? Iona is the magnet who draws the rest of the cast together – and she does it beautifully, whether they originally wanted to or not.

Review: The People on Platform 5 by Clare PooleyAlso, speaking of POV – each chapter’s narrator is identified in the book by their own unique icon. Extremely cute and clever!

Initially we get to know Sanjay, Piers, Emmie, Martha, and David through Iona’s hilariously funny – and painfully descriptive – nicknames. When Sanjay (a nurse), saves Piers (an obnoxious “business” type) from choking during one of their commutes, all their lives start to overlap and connect in various interesting and entertaining ways. Together, this random inter-generational posse, forms a tight friendship.

It is not all just fluff and giggles though, Clare Pooley also addresses themes like cyberbullying, heartbreak, gaslighting, imposter syndrome, grief, etc. It never feels forced or convoluted though, and she manages it with grace and respect.

The quality of the writing and storytelling is superb! Every one of the key role players are humane, fill you with empathy and it feels as if you can be friends in real life. You naturally become deeply invested in this book and everyone’s stories.

“The People on Platform 5” is the quirky but realistic, feel-good read you need right now. It filled me with warm and fuzzy joy, I even had a few proper laugh-aloud moments!

I found it an absolute delight; it is a five-star read from me!

“The People on Platform 5” is locally (in South Africa) published by Penguin Random House SA, and available from all major book sellers.

Want to read an extract?  Read here.

Thanks to the publisher for the gifted copy.