Book review – Waterloo-City, City-Waterloo by Leanne Shapton

Waterloo-City, City-Waterloo by Leanne ShaptonOne of the 12 Penguin Lines books released to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, Waterloo-City, City-Waterloo: The Waterloo and City Line is something like how I imagine a trainspotter’s notebook to be, only collecting the passengers rather than the trains.

Feeding my voyeuristic tendencies, the narrative flits from person to person, offering a thumbnail sketch of each, before settling without warning on one or another to offer an insight into their rambling thoughts.

Pages of artwork supplement some of the thought processes – a montage of photos of babies; several pages presumably of water in the mind of a man contemplating his next swim. The pattern of thoughts is disconcertingly familiar – inner dialogues of power play and plotting intersected by observations such as “At least these boots make me look tall.” It’s a reassuring reminder of the banality of our most of our minor obsessions, coupled with the endless fascination of peoplewatching and overheard snippets of conversation, only these are interior monologues, so even more intriguing.

As an added quirk, midway through the volume, the Outgoing journey finishes, and you have to turn to the back of the book, turn it the other way up and continue on the Return journey, meeting new character as well as reconnecting with some of those you met on the way out, such as Yellow tie, and Houndstooth jacket, dyed red hair. It’s an utterly one-sided reunion, and the continuation of their tale is unexpectedly satisfying.

It’s incredibly addictive, and, if you’re reading it on any form of public transport, a touch surreal as you dip into the pages then glance around wondering what the people around you are thinking.

Waterloo-City, City-Waterloo: The Waterloo and City Line by Leanne Shapton is one of the 12 Penguin Line books inspired by London Underground Lines. Available at £4.99 each.

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