04 October 2013

Trains and Lovers

I am reading a wonderful book by Alexander MacCall Smith.

A Novel

He is best known for his delightful series: "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency".
But this book is different, being a series of short stories woven by four people
who find themselves sharing a car on a train. 
"As they journey by rail from Ediburgh to London, the four travelers pass the time by sharing tales of trains that have changed their lives."
Primarily it is a book about love.
"How love touched their lives, in very different ways."
"Love is nothing out of the ordinary, even if we think it is; even if we idealise it, celebrate it in poetry, sentimentalise it in coy valentines. Love happens to just about everyone; it is like measles or the diseases of childhood; it is as predictable as the losing of milk teeth, or the breaking of a boy's voice. It may visit us at any time, in our youth but also when we are much older and believe we are beyond its reach; but we are not."
Smith is a marvelous writer, no matter what he puts his hand to, but this book is special. So endearing and so reminiscent of every rail journey I've ever made. I find myself smiling and wishing I were sitting in the empty seat by the glass door, listening to Andrew, the young Scotsman on his way to a new job in London; and David, the older American just back from a conference; and Kay, the middle-aged Australian woman just finishing a Scottish holiday; and young Hugh, who Smith describes as "tousle-haired and well built—as if he might be good at the playing of a boisterous contact sport."

Trains and Lovers is for anyone who loves trains, and anyone who enjoys eavesdropping on travelers talking about their lives to strangers—fiction though they may be. And it's a charming way to spend time on a bus or trolley in the morning, feeling the same sway of wheels beneath you as you journey along with them on their London-bound travels.
"A friendship may be conceived in four hours;
a short book finished and put away;
a life remembered."
This is a short book that I will be very sad to finish and put away and I can't help wishing this rail journey would never end.

All quotes are from "Trains and Lovers" by Alexander MacCall Smith. (2012 Pantheon Books NY)

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