Thursday, March 10, 2011

Strangers on a Train. . .

What I loved most about Tessa Hadley's new novel The London Train, (apart from the gorgeous cover), was that I never knew where this journey was going.  And I mean that as a compliment.

Without giving too much away, the novel is divided into two parts, one for each of the two people involved in a passionate affair. Both are already married to decent partners with whom they are relatively happy if restless.  He reviews poetry, she's taught English, but is now a part-time librarian. Both have recently lost a parent and in both stories an unexpected and complicated pregnancy factors into the plot.  They also travel regularly on the train (for different reasons) back and forth between Cardiff and London. The train is where they initially meet, but I love how Hadley plays with time and events in this novel; they won't actually encounter each other until half-way through the book.  And because the narrative is not chronological, we don't just get the predictable story of a love affair that fizzles, (it's almost, but not quite, incidental), but a much richer examination of these characters' daily lives, and the relationship choices they end up making.  It was a sophisticated read about unexpected detours en route to uncertain destinations. Well worth the ticket.

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