Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The London Train by Tessa Hadley

From back of book:

After his mother's death, Paul goes in search of Pia, his daughter from a disastrous first marriage, who has disappeared into the labyrinth of London.  When he finds her, Pia is pregnant, single, and living in a run-down, illegal flat.  But Paul is entranced by her excitement at living on the edge.  Abandoning his second wife and their children in Wales, he joins Pia to begin a new life in the heart of London.

Cora, meanwhile, is running in the opposite direction.  Escaping both her constrictive career and the
disappointments of her marriage with Robert, she leaves London to return home to Cardiff.  But when Robert disappears from work, Cora begins a journey of expiation, which may lead her back to him.

These two compelling protagonists' disparate paths will converge in a chance meeting with immediate and far-reaching consequences. 

My Thoughts:

Subtle and engaging are the two words I would use to describe this book.  Hadley's The London Train is a slow moving novel that provides glimpses into the daily lives of two very flawed characters, Paul and Cora.   In fact, the characters are completely unlikeable - they hurt the ones who love them without abandon and don't even seem to realize how selfish and mean they truly are.  These are the types of characters that you don't really connect with, but that you can't stop reading about - you just have to see what they do next.  We have Paul, who has recently lost his mother and just found out his oldest daughter is pregnant and shacked up in London.  So, what does he do? He decides to leave his wife and two young daughters in Wales and move in with Pia, the preggers daughter.  Hmmm. Sounds like a midlife crisis to me.  Then there is Cora, she has tired of her life in London, including her husband, and decides to flee the city for Wales - she wants to live in her recently deceased parents' home and enjoy life in the country.  Hmmm. Another midlife crisis? 

Clearly, both characters have experienced loss and grief within their lives, but instead of  dealing with those raw and real emotions, they choose to abandon their realities and make a bid for freedom.  Freedom from their spouses, children, friends, responsibilities - whatever they feel is dragging them down into despair.  You can't help but feel sorry for the secondary characters and all they have to endure as a result of Paul and Cora's sudden departures.  And yes, Paul and Cora do meet on the London train and wind up involved in each other's lives, which is where the two parts of the story overlap - the book is broken into two parts, the first one is Paul's story and the second is Cora's.  We never get all the details, but we do get a sense of how and why these two connected with one another - both longing for something different, something new. 

Hadley has written a wonderful piece of literary fiction that exudes confidence and intelligence.  Her prose is subtle and perceptive.  The imagery is vivid and clear - you can easily imagine the streets of London.   The mood is gray and detached - you can feel the characters' despair.   Its easy to get lost in this book and find yourself wandering alongside Paul and Cora as they navigate the twists and turns life takes them on as they journey to freedom.  This is one of those books where not much happens plot-wise, but when it comes to the characters, its bursting with action.  Its the type of book that haunts you for days after.  I would most definitely recommend The London Train to anyone and everyone.  It is one of my favorite reads of this year!

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book.


Ti said...

Great job. I enjoyed it for all the same reasons you did.

Nadia said...

Thanks, Ti! It was such a good read!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one! Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

Lisa said...

Between you and Ti, you've really convinced me that I need to get this one soon!

Nadia said...

heathertlc, Thanks! I loved this book! So, thanks for having me on the tour and featuring the review on FB :)

Lisa, Get this one - you will not be disappointed!

Aths said...

I read your review a few days back at work but only now got a chance to comment. I loved your review and your take on it. One thing I've noticed about this book is that everyone takes away something different from it in addition to the basic picture. That's one of the best things I liked about this one.

Nadia said...

Aths, so true! I love to read about the different things people come away with from this novel - that shows what a great book it really is!