Review: The People On Platform 5 by Clare Pooley
By Rebecca Bormann
If you’re anything like me, the thought of a stranger talking to you on the tube fills you with abject horror. The morning commute is for reading, scrolling on your phone or thinking about what you might have for lunch. It is certainly not for striking up a conversation with your seat neighbour. Shudder.
It’s odd that behaviour that we consider appropriate for the commute: unengaged, unwilling to catch anyone’s gaze, standoffish, would be considered bizarre and rude in a social situation. Why is it that being in a train full of strangers makes you act any differently to being in a room full of strangers with a glass of wine in your hand? Clare Pooley examines precisely this in her uplifting and heart-warming novel The People On Platform 5.
Sometimes, all you need is for one person to break through the wall of silence and this is where Iona Iverson, an outgoing and eccentric lady in her sixties, comes in. On the 8.05 train into London, she intervenes when a man starts choking on a grape. This single event brings together an unlikely group of strangers, all bound by the force-to-be-reckoned-with that is Iona. The group, albeit reluctantly at first, strike up unexpected friendships and when each one faces their own individual challenges, they realise that sometimes solutions present themselves in the most unusual of places.
This is a cheering tale that will remind you that the stranger sitting opposite you today has their own life, their own story and their own troubles. Beware reading it on the commute though, as someone might actually try to talk to you…