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The People on Platform 5 by Clare Pooley | Book Review |

“Darling, what is the point of being alive if you go through life unnoticed, without standing out and making waves?”― Clare Pooley, The People on Platform 5

Originally titled Iona Iverson’s Rules of Commuting, The People on Platform 5 is a zippy and a fun read. The people depicted in it are from all walks of life and the only thing common between them is the train they all travel on daily to work or school.

Title: The People on Platform 5

My rating: 5/5 stars

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Viking

Author: Clare Pooley

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A cast of seven people as far apart from each other as possible, form the wholesome cast of this latest novel by Clare Pooley as they commute by the same train daily from Platform 5. Drama unfolds when inadvertently they stumble into each others life and are unable to un-entangle out of it.

Eccentric & eclectic magazine “agony aunt” Iona Iverson commutes by the 8:05 train from Hampton Court to Waterloo station with her dog Lulu. She is a bit of a know-it-all and almost always right! Iona loves to observe people and gives them nicknames to suit the personality they seem to her. She has coined not just nicknames but even essential commuting rules like:
1. You must have a job to get to
2. Never talk to strangers on the train
3. Don’t consume hot food
4. Always pack for any eventuality
5. Never give up a seat once occupied unless (a) it’s for a pregnant lady (b) it’s for someone old or infirm (c) Iona tells you to
Emmie works in the marketing department of a social media firm and has been feeling of late that her work goes unappreciated. She yearns to be recognized but it unable to achieve that. She has just moved in with her utterly gorgeous new boyfriend who is absolutely perfect. Yet, she has to constantly remind herself that she is a lucky girl. She is being cyber stalked by someone who has been sending her nasty messages everyday and she is at a loss as to how to deal with it all.
Sanjay is a male nurse in the Oncology department and sees his share of tragedies on a daily basis. He fancies himself in love with Emmie and decides to break the ice by carrying the same book that she has been carrying on the commute. He is prone to anxiety attacks and seems unable to cope at times.
Martha who has been trying very hard to turn invisible on account of an intimate photograph of hers being circulated via social media by her school mates. The comments and bullying that follow this unfortunate event has left Martha vulnerable and lonely. She has been trying hard to keep her head down and avoid calling any attention to her.
Piers wears expensive and smartly tailored suits which are much needed to keep up the appearances in his high strung trading profession. He is so successful at investing in the markets that he has been bequeathed with the sobriquet of ‘Midas’ by his fellow traders. But beneath his fast paced lifestyle lies the ominous truth that he has been fired from work and has been keep up the pretense to avoid a confrontation at home.

A muscular body announces Jake as a fitness freak. He is a personal trainer who owns the coolest gym possible.

David is a silver haired gentleman in his late sixties and is a lawyer by profession. His quiet demeanor and nondescript appearance guarantees that no one ever notices him or remembers him.

“the best way to persuade someone to talk is to stay quiet. People, when confronted with silence, feel the overwhelming urge to fill it with something.”― Clare Pooley, The People on Platform 5

Obviously no one talks to anyone, despite being daily regulars. Each is lost in their own daydream and worries and the struggle to reach their destination on time.

Serendipity strikes when one fine day, Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader decides to choke on a grape. Suspiciously-Nice-New-Malden who is a nurse by profession, responds to Iona’s cry for help and the choking man is saved. Thus the sound barrier is broken and all of sudden a group of commuters learn each other’s name and so begins a familiarity which leads to bonds of friendship among them.

One by one, a few people find companionship in each other and a sort of alliance is reached when they all realize that their private assumptions of each other were so far apart from reality. Iona becomes the sun around which all these planets revolve and life seems to be chugging along nicely. They all converge onto her for advice on their love lives and find surprising outcomes through it.

“most endings turned out to be beginnings in disguise.” ― Clare Pooley, The People on Platform 5

But of late, Iona has been feeling out of step with the world at large and the generational gap has widened with the invention of social media. The youngsters in her office seem to be calling her names behind her back and avoiding including her in their meet ups and get-together. Her editor seems to be finding newer ways of humiliating her into leaving the job daily, until he succeeds.

She spirals out of daily life, preferring to hide herself away in her house, till her gang comes to rescue the fair damsel and in turn learning more about her personal life.

Each character brings to the table not just problems but strengths which they begin to employ to help out one another. Eventually they realize what they were not doing right with their own lives. Each finds solutions to their problems and end up being friends who care for each other too.

What I liked:

Themes like homophobia, ageism, toxic masculinity, gas lighting, stalking, bullying at school, social media notoriety, and coercive control have been deftly woven in through a cast of endearing characters of all ages, ethnicity and gender. The writing is sharp and crisp with an easy flowing narrative, well-etched characters, interesting back stories and sub plots and great humor and witticism.

What I didn’t like:

I cannot think of anything that I didn’t like about this books other than that it ended too soon.

My Conclusions:

Pick it up for a hearty and light read to refresh from some intense reading. I read it as an audio book on audible and loved the narrator a lot. I would recommend it to everyone as a good narrator makes a huge difference to the way a book flows.

If you are looking for another light and witty then perhaps you would like to check out another one here – The Flatshare by Beth O’ Leary

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I am an avid book hoarder and reader who loves to write about her opinions on books she reads. If you would like to have an honest review of your book by me; please drop me a mail on with :

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6 thoughts on “The People on Platform 5 by Clare Pooley | Book Review |

  1. Glad to read a nice review about this book. Will keep it in mind when I’m looking for a light read, or maybe for gifting purposes. Thanks for sharing this post, Shalini.

    1. You are welcome Esha – I read the other one by this author too and that was equally good. Now I am waiting to see what comes next by this author.

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