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 realise 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.
The story opens in a hauntingly described Peterborough train station on a very early winter’s morning. A lone man makes his way into the station heading for platform seven, the furthest one from the station night staff. It seems sure what he has come to do and the description of his lonely and final walk to the platform is extremely well done. Unknown to him and indeed to anyone, he is being watched. This is all being witness by our main character and narrator Lisa Evans.
Lisa is also here at this early hour as she is trapped within the boundaries of the station and can not leave, for Lisa is a ghost who walks the platforms of Peterborough train station day and night, observing passengers and following staff as they all go about their daily lives. Lisa is trapped at the station as just under 2 years she was also hit by a train and died here. She has little memory of who she is or how she came to have been killed by the train.
I thought this was a very imaginative read yet firmly anchored in the real world. The idea of using a ghost to tell her story works wonderfully well, yet at the same time she moves within the life of the living, watching their day to day movements throughout the station.
The book isn’t all set in the world of the paranormal as we also meet a wonderful set of other characters who work/use the station and learn of their own back stories and current lives. One of these is a young man who uses the station whom Lisa spots one day in a clearly distressed and upset state. She connects with him and forms an instant ‘crush’ if you like, thinking of him and looking out for his return. One day she ends up following him and somehow this concern for him allows her to be able to leave the station for the first time since her death. This triggers elements of her memory to return and the story then follows her in the time leading up to her death living with her domineering boyfriend Matthew, a doctor at the local hospital.
It also follows some of the other characters and their lives outside of the station.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a fascinating read, and even though it deals with issues such as suicide, death, and domestic abuse it was moving and insightful rather than too sad or depressing. It talks of the subject of ‘gas-lighting’ which I hadn’t heard of before and found myself looking this up. It handles the parts involving the domestic abuse very very I thought, making the interactions between Lisa and her boyfriend seem so subtle from Lisa’s point of view yet screamingly alarming to the outsider.
I liked the way the author brought the other characters into the story with how the deaths effects and involves them and also the way she touched on how the death of a loved one can have long term consequences other than grief. The other characters are all interesting to read about and gives the book a nice outlet into other lives away from that of the main story line.
I ‘loved’ the ending, although that really doesn’t seem the right word to use! But I thought it finished the book excellently with the answers to Lisa’s death all dealt with but without being too neat and tidy.
The only other book from this author I have read is her well known Apple Tree Yard but following this one I will certainly look at reading more.
Thank you to the publishers Faber and Faber for a copy of this book via Netgalley.
Platform Seven was released in Hardback on August 22 2019 and will be available in Paperback April next year.