Review: Trains and Lovers

Posted 5 June, 2013 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Trains and Lovers
By: Alexander McCall Smith
Format/Source: Advanced reading copy courtesy of the publisher via GoodReads First Reads Programme

The rocking of the train car, the sound of its wheels on the rails…there’s something special about this form of travel that makes for easy conversation. Which is just what happens to the 4 strangers who meet in Trains and Lovers. As they travel by rail from Edinburgh to London, they entertain one another with tales of how trains have changed their lives. A young, keen-eyed Scotsman recounts how he turned a friendship with a young woman co-worker into a romance by spotting an anachronistic train in an 18th-century painting. An Australian woman shares how her parents fell in love and spent their life together running a railroad siding in the remote Australian Outback. A middle-aged American arts patron sees 2 young men saying goodbye in the station and recalls his youthful crush on another man. And a young Englishman describes how exiting his train at the wrong station allowed him to meet an intriguing woman whom he impulsively invited to dinner–and into his life.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via a GoodReads contest. I’ve heard of Alexander McCall Smith’s works but I’ve never read any of his stuff (though I’ve heard good things of his work). This is a standalone novel and the premise sounded interesting so I greatly looked forward to reading this novel. This book will be available on June 11.

The concept of this novel–four strangers telling various stories of love and life from their respective lives and past experiences while travelling in a train across the countryside–was interesting, drawing on the fantastic notion of timing and connection. Each of the traveller’s stories represent a different aspect of love: unrequited, romantic, familial, trust. Each traveller also comes from a different part of the world, which also provided an interesting tapestry for this novel.

As different as the vignettes were, I never felt like I connected with the characters. The only stories that sparked particular interest with me was Andrew’s and Hugh’s; Andrew’s was a straightforward summer love/father standing in the way romance while Hugh’s had that underlying momentary prospect of it becoming a tale of espionage. But even their stories were far too contained, simple and brief in a way for me to completely enjoy them. David’s story was especially brief and left as a personal reflection. Kay’s story was all right, revealing not only the story of her parents but also life in the Australian Outback.

Trains and Lovers is a straightforward collection of stories from four, non-connected individuals who just happen to end up conversing with one another on the train. There’s some lovely lines throughout the novel but the characters were not fleshed out enough for me to really care for them; they were also rather static with no sense of change or growth or revelation amongst any of them by the end of the journey. It’s a quiet novel that raises some thoughtful ideas but otherwise leaves no memorable imprint on this reader.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Visit the author’s official website || Order this book from the Book Depository

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply