The London Train
By Tessa Hadley
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780062011831, 352pp.)
Publication Date: June 2011
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Unsettled by the recent death of his mother, Paul sets out in search of Pia, his daughter from his first marriage, who has disappeared into the labyrinth of London. Discovering her pregnant and living illegally in a run-down council flat with a pair of Polish siblings, Paul is entranced by Pias excitement at living on the edge. Abandoning his second wife and their children in Wales, he joins her to begin a new life in the heart of London.
Cora, meanwhile, is running in the opposite direction, back to Cardiff, to the house she has inherited from her parents. She is escaping her marriage, and the constrictions and disappointments of her life in London. But there is a deeper reason why she cannot stay with her decent Civil Service husbandthe aftershocks of which she hasnt fully come to terms with herself.Connecting both stories is the London train, and a chance meeting that will have immediate and far-reaching consequences for both Paul and Cora.
Tessa Hadley is the author of four highly praised novels: Accidents in the Home, which was long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award; Everything Will Be All Right; The Master Bedroom; The London Train, which was a New York Times Notable Book; and a previous collection of stories, Sunstroke, also a New York Times Notable Book. Her stories appear regularly in The New Yorker. She lives in Cardiff, Wales, and teaches literature and creative writing at Bath Spa University.
- In the course of the novel, both Cora and Paul lose their mothers. How does this affect each of them, individually, and in what ways are their reactions different? How do their losses affect the next steps Cora and Paul take, and the choices they make, in their lives?
“Powerful…. Ms. Hadley has a talent for the canny detail…. There are platoons of novelists producing work about middle-class marriages in disarray, most of it very dull. Ms. Hadley is one of the gifted exceptions, and the calm acuity with which she depicts these fractured relationships is haunting.”
-Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
“[Hadley] is a writer who has always allowed her fiction space to breathe beyond its narrative borders. . . . Shows how language, deployed with precision or daring, can make thrillingly new the textures and undercurrents of everyday life.”
-Peter Parker, Sunday Times (London)
“Hadley is a close observer of her characters’ inner worlds. Her language can be fine-grained, subtle, eloquent…. Hadley is a supremely perceptive writer of formidable skill and intelligence, someone who goes well beyond surfaces.”
-Jean Thompson, New York Times Book Review
“The London Train brings a quiet, nuanced intelligence to domestic fiction….The London Train is the sort of muted, thoughtful read that requires switching from the clattering express onto life’s slow local tracks. Hadley, a meticulous stylist, has woven into her narrative reflections on memory and time.”
-Heller McAlpin, NPR
“Impressive. . . . a triumph of form.”
-Ti Sperlinger, Independent on Sunday (London)
“Hadley’s strength lies in her characterization. . . . . There’s something pleasingly human about them. With characters like these Hadley makes us wonder what forms our own darkness takes.”
-Richard Platt, TimeOut (London)
“Spectacular….A compelling and serious page-turner.”
-Anna Shapiro, The Observer (London) on Accidents in the Home
“Tessa Hadley is a writer whose antennae are almost indecently attuned to the interior static of private lives....[M]asterly...”
-Emma Hagestadt, The Independent
“Elizabeth Bowen-like in its attention to nuance in language and behaviour, this concise novel also offers a sharp portrait of modern Britain.”
-Peter Parker, London Sunday Times
“The minds of Paul and Cora are so fully occupied by this most astute and sympathetic of writers....Hadley has crafted real excitement, so that each story ends in a flurry of curiosity and The London Train snaps shut with an effective twist.”
-Susanna Rustin, The Guardian