Title: Platform Seven
Author: Louise Doughty
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Platform Seven at 4am: Peterborough Railway Station is deserted. The man crossing the covered walkway on this freezing November morning is confident he’s alone. As he sits on the metal bench at the far end of the platform it is clear his choice is strategic – he’s as far away from the night staff as he can get.
What the man doesn’t realize is that he has company. Lisa Evans knows what he has decided. She knows what he is about to do as she tries and fails to stop him walking to the platform edge.
Two deaths on Platform Seven. Two fatalities in eighteen months – surely they’re connected?
No one is more desperate to understand what connects them than Lisa Evans herself. After all, she was the first of the two to die.
Platform Seven is, for me, a hard book to review. It sounds strange when you try to explain it to someone: a novel set largely in Peterborough train station. However, it’s so much more than that (of course!); I found the novel completely gripping and finished it feeling hugely moved.
I don’t want to give too much away but we learn very early on that Lisa is now a ghost of her former self, stuck at Peterborough Train Station where she died. The start of the book took a while for me to really feel gripped – it’s fairly slow to start with, a lot of observations from Lisa but, as she’s a ghost, that’s all they are: observations, and I don’t usually tend to go for paranormal elements in a novel. Lisa can’t interact with the people around her, so it makes for limited action early on. However, about a quarter of the way through, we start to really unpick the lead up to her death, and we see that her relationship with boyfriend Matty was hugely problematic and no doubt led to her death in some way – but exactly how?
Platform Seven is a really compelling story of an abusive relationship, told in a quite unique way. The way that Lisa and Matty’s relationship starts going downhill is no doubt the way it happens for many people – that creeping, insidious abuse that edges its way into your relationship and suddenly it’s there pretty much all of the time. Lisa knows she needs to get away from Matty, but general life – stressful jobs, co-habiting, the promise that a holiday might fix things – gets in the way. Although I was screaming at Lisa to get away, it’s never that simple. The story highlights that people in abusive relationships can be fully aware and want the relationship to end, but actually finishing it is another matter, especially when everyone else thinks your partner is perfect.
A lot of the novel focuses on their changing relationship, which I’m glad about as I found that the most gripping, but I also really loved the parts about other people based in or around the station – the police trying to work out what happened regarding several suicides that have taken place in the station; one of the security guards, Dalmar, living a lonely life; Lisa’s parents, who only appear a small amount but really have an impact in their grief over their daughter’s apparent suicide. It’s not my usual pick of a mystery/ thriller, and I’ll tell you now – there aren’t any big dramatic reveals, if you’re expecting those, but the book doesn’t need that.
Platform Seven is beautifully written. The details, characters, thoughts and feelings all created a book that had me feeling angry, desperate and emotional at different times. I felt on the brink of tears finishing the novel and had absolutely sunk into the writing. I could have read on for so much longer – I really enjoyed previous novels by Louise Doughty but this one had me thinking about it for long after I finished it.