Monday 13 May 2024

Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting

Finished May 7
Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley

This gem of a novel follows a group of people who commute by train into London with Hampton Court being the other end of the line. They interact with each other as each faces work and life issues and get help in figuring out next steps. We see their stories from each person's viewpoint, and I really enjoyed how we noticed different things from seeing them from different eyes. This also lets us see the personal thoughts, concerns, and dilemmas they face. Each chapter tells you who the narrator is, the time, and the train location. 
The title character Iona is in her late fifties, flamboyant, opinionated, and proudly lesbian. She works as an advice columnist for a women's magazine, but is facing agism issues at her work, and dealing with a life challenge that is revealed later in the story. She has given nicknames to other commuters that she sees regularly and we find out their stories as they begin to interact with her. She also goes almost everywhere with her French bulldog Lulu. She also carries a bag that seems to contain just what is needed for any occasion. In the mornings it is a flask of tea, a cup and saucer, mail, and her iPad. In the evenings it is a glass and a flask of premixed gin and tonic, along with lemon slices
Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader is an investment banker who dresses in bespoke suits ands has an arrogant attitude, but when he (Piers) almost dies in front of her on the train, a friendship gradually begins. Up until now, he has thought of Iona as Crazy Dog Lady. He is a man who is having a life crisis but still loves playing with numbers. 
Sitting next to Piers during the near-death incident is Impossibly-Pretty-Bookworm, a woman in her twenties who dresses well but not conservatively and is always reading a book. She is Emmie and works for an advertising agency. She also lives with a man Toby, that we see only briefly. She also begins getting occasional anonymous hateful messages that target her confidence. 
Coming to the rescue of Piers is Mr.-Too-Good-to-Be-True, otherwise known as Sanjay, a nurse. Sanjay has thought fondly of Iona as Rainbow Lady. Sanjay thinks of Emmie as Girl-on-the-Train and is working up to approaching her to ask her out. Sanjay suffers from anxiety, but tries to hide it from others. One of his ways to distract himself from an episode of anxiety is to recite the periodic table in order. 
Also coming into the story is Martha, a teenager struggling with fitting in and discovering her own identity. Her arrival is also a scene stealer as she vomits on Piers' computer. She has done something that creates a personal issue for her and needs help figuring a way to change her image. She also needs help in math. She thinks of Iona as Magic-Handbag-Lady. 
David enters the picture when his wife leaves a note in his lunch that has him wondering how to fix the situation. Iona, naturally offers assistance, helping him to plan an approach to this challenge in his life. 
I loved how Pooley brings the characters to life through their stories, and I found myself liking all of them as I knew them better. 
A fantastic read. 

No comments:

Post a Comment