I was away at the weekend and thought I’d have loads of time to read, but in fact apart from the two longish train journeys I was busy seeing family, volunteering at parkrun, running, wandering around Poole and Bournemouth, or falling asleep ridiculously early, so that didn’t quite work as I hoped and I was a bit disappointed. I did read this one on the way down and finished it in the hotel room, and have finished and reviewed “Thrown”, finished “Book Lovers” and half-read “Why We Read” so have to tell myself I’m not doing too badly with my NetGalley May titles.

I really enjoyed Clare Pooley’s community-based novel, “The Authenticity Project” which came out in May 2020, so leapt at this one when I received an invitation from the publishers to read it via NetGalley.

Clare Pooley – “The People on Platform 5”

(25 January 2022, NetGalley)

We meet a cast of characters who commute on a train from the Hampton Court area into London and gradually find out about them as they find out about each other and themselves. There’s love, heartbreak, loss, protection, support and life changes to come through the book, and several of the characters aren’t quite as they seem …

I really liked how Pooley introduced the characters one by one, and the way we triangulated them by their names for each other, Iona, the sort of linchpin of the group, with her bright clothes and uncompromising attitudes being Magic Handbag Woman to one, Rainbow Lady to another. The cast is diverse, of different sexualties and ethnicities without it seeming like a box-ticking exercise, and kindness is prized above all other qualities. Everyone has an Achilles heel or what they see as a weakness, and I found nurse Sanjay’s panic attacks particularly moving (content warning: there are some details about cancer in his part of the story and another theme on early-onset Alzheimer’s, although all the depictions are carefully done and nothing devastating happens to a character we get to know. Should I say the dog gets through OK in this parenthesis? Well, you know I worry about that sort of thing, too).

There are a few hard-hitting themes confronted here: sexist bullying at school, toxic masculinity, ageism and coercive control, but again they’re all woven into the plot in a natural way. The plots are resolved nicely, not everything fully finished off but enough positivity and hope to make it a relaxing and reassuring read.

Thank you to Random House / Transworld for offering me a copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “The People on Platform 5” is published on 26 May 2022.