Acclaimed author Tessa Hadley was longlisted for the Guardian first book award for her novel Accidents in the Home. In The London Train, Paul leaves his family to search for Pia, his daughter from his first marriage. He finds her pregnant and living in less than ideal conditions - but with an outlook on life that’s strangely compelling. Paul decides to start a new life and joins Pia in London. But he doesn’t know that a chance encounter with a desperate woman will change his destiny.
©2011 Tessa Hadley (P)2011 W.F. Howes
The London Train takes the form of two novelettes, loosely interwoven. In the first, Paul, a thrice-married man with two little girls, gets a call from an ex-wife telling him that their 18-year old daughter has dropped out of college, moved to parts unknown, won't tell anyone where she is, and refuses to answer her cell phone. Eventually, she contacts Paul, who finds Pia pregnant and living in a dumpy flat with an older Polish man and his sister. For reasons that are never quite clear to me (except maybe that he fantasizes about the sister), Paul moves into their flat, leaving his current wife and two little girls behind. At various points during his stay, Paul, a known philanderer, mentions "the last time," and the second story focuses on Cora, with whom he had that affair. Cora is separated from her husband Robert--again for reasons unknown, except perhaps her guilt over the affair, a subsequent miscarriage, and not being able to bear Robert's children. She reminisces about her affair with Paul and her past with Robert while sorting things out.
Although the novel had its interesting moments, I never quite connected with either Paul or Cora and found my attention drifting.
Enjoyable atmospherics & observations of the human condition and I wanted to love this book, but the 2 main characters never came alive for me. Paul's wandering off from his happy home, with never a word about how or why, and Cora's similar departure from her husband, just made them seem like wraiths; no flesh & blood. Interesting ending, though. I actually wished it had started there!
The narration is perfect. You can almost always tell who's speaking, and yet the different voices aren't overdone. An enjoyable tone and pace.
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