The Passengers of the 221
Les passagères du 221
«They’re doing time inside. We’re doing time outside.» Catherine Béchaux well knows the world of the families of detainees. In this first novel, her writing is brief, tight, as though with an urgency to share the faces of these women which nothing can distract from the detention of a loved one.
Not so long ago, Paul was driving the 221: an ordinary route, a one-and-a-half hour trip, twenty-seven stops, pretty uneventful, a diverse crowd of passengers from the suburb of a large city… What really ended up intriguing him were those women who, between noon and one o’clock, would get on, their arms full of big bags of clothes. Now he knows they’ll all get off at the same stop: the detention center. Among them on that Monday were Maryse, Marie-Jo, Naïma, Fatou, Mireille… In the enclosed space of the bus, each of them goes back over their life before prison, over the day when everything was turned upside-down, over things confided to them during the last visit, the litany of regulations, the anxiety passing through the security gates, the apprehension of seeing each other again… Each focus on the most awaited, but also the most feared, moment of the week. The visiting room. Forty-five minutes in a 43 square foot room, that’s all each have left of their man.
So, when Mireille suddenly falls ill and Paul stops the bus, the passengers of the 221 all get up. For once, they rally together and break their silence.
Catherine Béchaux lives in Fresnes, France, not far from the prison. After thirty years of journalism in the youth press, she has for five years been a volunteer at a center for families of penitentiary detainees. The author of short stories and a children’s novel (Le Secret de Martin, Bayard Publishing), The Passengers of the 221 is her first novel for adults
« A thrilling novel with a different outlook on the prison world. » Le Parisien
« A little book, great emotion. » Marie Claire
« A very beautiful first novel, full of restraint and compassion. » Le Dauphiné libéré
« A short book, original and compelling. » Télé Z