I downloaded Our Stop onto my kindle a few weeks ago. It was on one of those deals, so I looked at the blurb and thought it sounded like the light-hearted read I sought. What I wasn't expecting was for it to completely reignite something in me, something I'd almost forgotten about.
When I was younger, I was obsessed with commercial romance fiction. At 10 years old, I'd scour the charity shops searching for books like Carole Matthews or Sophie Kinsella. I definitely didn't understand everything going on in them (leave that to your imagination...), but something about them had me hooked – the lives you get sucked into, the characters you root for, even those characters you hate.
Fast forward to my teens and I became obsessed with YA romance (not fantasy, though). One glimpse at my current bookshelves and you'd see this phase. There was something about reading about people my own age in those situations that made it even better.
Then, like every English Literature undergraduate, my tastes expanded. I began reading classics, loving literary fiction and Booker longlists. Here and there, I'd dip into a Sophie Kinsella or similar. Mainly when I was on holiday, or in the hairdressers. Then, I found Beth O'Leary – a game changer for me. My kindle started recommending romance books about people my age, and bingo - the algorithm had found me.
Now, the reason you are here - you want to know about THIS book. Well, let me explain the concept for you.
In London, Nadia gets the 7:30am tube most mornings, which Daniel gets every morning. Daniel admires Nadia from afar, and one day decides to change his luck and write into the Missed Connections column of the newspaper. Nadia sees the piece and finds the description very familiar to herself...but surely it can't be? And so begins a romance of near-misses, two people dancing around each other, whose lives are magnetised by fate.
'He thought to himself how much better he felt for being proactive in his own happiness. He didn’t know a lot of people who went after the things that made them feel good – he knew a lot of people who sat around and waited for life to happen to them.'
Sounds simple, right? That is what is so perfect about it. Two people, one train, and plenty of action in between. We get both Nadia and Daniel's side in a split narration (my favourite kind!), helping this romance to be fleshed out. Neither character is a 2-dimensional prize for the loveable protagonist – they are both the main character. This obviously isn't new for romance fiction, but I always appreciate it and enjoy getting the insight into what both are thinking about the other.
Both characters are loveable and hilarious, yet distinct from one another. What's funny about it is, even though I know they are fictional characters in a story very much controlled by the writer, I spent the whole time thinking 'they are soul mates' as if they are real people, brought up in different ways and by different people. With every near miss (believe me, there's plenty), I was grinding my teeth worrying they'd never meet. If that isn't the sign of a well-written book, where predictability is never a given, then I don't know what is.
‘Why do all men want a mother and a therapist and a best friend and a cheerleader, all wrapped up in the body of a Kooples model, and at best what they bring to the table is, like, they’ve never killed anyone and maybe they know how to make chicken in mushroom sauce?’
'Daniel reflected that it might have been poor taste to call the women they dated hoes, but nothing rhymed with ‘young women with dreams, hopes, aspiration and quite a good sense of humour’.
I found so much of this book relatable, which I don't think is always needed in a book, but it's nice to feel connected to characters and what they are going through. Being in your 20s, figuring out life - that's exactly where I am right now, too.
‘I hate that you don’t get over someone like, once. You have to do it again and again and again, every time you think of them.’
Now that I am actually writing about 'Our Stop', just like the books I loved when I was younger, I find it hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes me think about this story all these weeks later. I think it's that it left me with strong feelings - it made me laugh, it made me smile, it made me cry. I think any book that doesn't leave you passive, or thinking 'well, that was nice' is something really special.
I've now bought the next Laura Jane Williams book, because if this book is anything to go by, her writing is just fantastic. I've also spent a lot of money on commercial romance books. After all, Ive got some catching up to do...
Thanks so much for reading, and hopefully see you next time,