Read the london train by Tessa Hadley Online


Paul lives in the Welsh countryside with his wife Elise and their two young children. Over in London, Cora plans to move 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. Connecting them is the London train, and a chance meeting that will have immediate and far-reading consPaul lives in the Welsh countryside with his wife Elise and their two young children. Over in London, Cora plans to move 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. Connecting them is the London train, and a chance meeting that will have immediate and far-reading consequences for both Paul and Cora....

Title : the london train
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 13550983
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 324 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

the london train Reviews

  • Kasey Jueds
    2019-03-23 03:08

    I am a huge Tessa Hadley fan--have loved all her books--and was so excited for this one to come out. And I wasn't disappointed. It is all the things I've adored about her previous work: subtly, beautifully written; smart about what it means to be human. I was fascinated by the comments that remark on how unpleasant both of the main characters are, I suppose because I could see that but wasn't put off by it; in fact, it's one of the things I find most moving about Hadley's work: her ability to create characters who don't behave particularly well, but who are, in spite or because of that behavior, deeply human and sympathetic. I felt for both Paul and Cora, though if they were real people and I actually knew them I might not like them very much. And even though my outward circumstances are very different from theirs, I found myself empathizing, too. I think that's part of Hadley's genius as a writer: she finds what is most human and most loveable in her characters and is able to communicate that in a quietly gorgeous way. Plus she intuits, and then is able to describe with incredible accuracy, feelings and thoughts that seem totally real to me, but that don't often get acknowledged in fiction (or anywhere else). That's part of what gives her writing such depth--that enormous attention to what is usually hidden in us. I kept stumbling on sentences that describe (beautifully, memorably) something I'd felt, even though I hadn't even been aware of it at the time. The fact that she gives words to the inner life makes her work an essential companion for me.

  • Douglas
    2019-04-11 07:03

    Many months ago, I stumbled upon a short story by Tessa Hadley in The New Yorker. I think the story ended up being a section of her latest novel, Clever Girl. I was instantly absorbed by her writing and ended up reading the rest of her New Yorker stories. The London Train is my first novel to read of hers. Set in London and Cardiff, it's the interconnected story of two people and how they find an inner meaning to their lives after suffering personal loss. The plot synopsis on here is adequate, so there's no need to be redundant. This, like all of Hadley's writing I've read so far, is the brilliant illumination of the inner life. She exposes her characters thoughts, emotions, and reasons for the choices they make. Hadley conjures Stanislavsky's method for getting to the bottom of a truth. Why do we do what we do? Why do we behave the way we behave? What is true and what makes it so? Hadley uses stunning, precise prose. Here's a sentence I underlined for its beautiful construction, "Cottages that were once homes of agricultural labourers fetched stockbrokers' prices now, as if the countryside was under some sick enchantment, in which the substance of things was invisibly replaced with only a simulacrum of itself." I don't live in Whales, nor have I spent much time in the UK, but with just one sentence, Hadley highlights the friction between the urbanite English and rural Welsh and makes it possible for a reader a half-world away to be almost present. The London Train is the first book I'm reading in a Goodreads Group: The Year of Reading Women. More discussion about this book can be found there.

  • donna
    2019-04-22 02:56

    The writing in this is wonderful. The sentences, the paragraphs, and the narrator (I listened to the audiobook) carried me along. But when I think about the story, I really didn't like this book.We meet an unlikable man who deserts his wife to move in with his unlikable pregnant daughter and her unlikable friends in a shabby flat in London. Then one day he leaves and goes back to his wife. This is the first half of the book. Then we meet an unlikable woman who is separated from her civil servant husband. We spend some time with her boring life and then she meets the guy (you know, the one we spent the first half of the book learning to dislike) on the train. Their brief encounter is told solely from her perspective and then it ends. The description of this book and the writing made me expect so much more. Very disappointing.

  • Suzy
    2019-03-26 06:47

    A friend of mine says "life is curly, not lived in a straight line". Tessa Hadley writes beautifully of the curly shape of our contemporary lives take. She writes with exceptional clarity of people's thoughts and feelings as they experience detours, re-routings, and switchbacks. The sudden and surprising departures from "normal" that the characters experience shape their decisions and change them irrevocably in both grand and subtle ways. Many of these decisions seem so wrong-headed, even whacky, but they are what propel the characters on their curly, sometimes circuitous, paths. Hadley tells their story vividly and without judgment. I thought the narrator of the audio book, Juanita McMahon, did a great job of bringing the book to life.

  • Felice
    2019-03-27 05:50

    Tessa Hadley keeps proving herself as the kind of writer whose books get better and better. London Train is her fifth novel and I have to say it was wonderful.It was on the long list for the 2011 Orange Prize. Most of the novel is divided into the story of two separate characters but don't think short stories. Think more like Carol Shields Republic of Love. Story one is about Paul. He lives a thoughtful life in Cardiff with wife #2 and children #'s 2 and 3. He's a poet and a father and an about to be midlife crisis man. His eldest daughter, Pia, #1, is the one whose life he's a part timer in. She lives with her Mother. Paul's life of comfort and untested intellectual liberality is put to the point when Pia disappears and is found pregnant, living in squalor in London with her illegal boyfriend. Story two is about Clara. She is seeking peace. Clara has spent 25 years working hard teaching other people's children. Her parents have recently passed away and her marriage is in trouble. Clara's much older husband is facing disciplinary actions at work. Like Paul, Clara is a relatively untried liberal intellectual whose life is suddenly in a crisis. Clara moves from the anxiety of her London life to take a job as a librarian in Cardiff. When Hadley takes these strangers on a train and adds a touch of Brief Encounter you have London Train. In fact this novel really is a contemporary retelling of Brief Encounter. It has the same domestic responsibilities and virtues verses romance and freedom theme. Oh and trains too. In Hadley's version we learn much more about the lives of the characters than we do in Brief Encounter. Like Coward's Laura and Alec, Paul and Clara have reached middle age relatively unscathed and with dreams of hearth and home if not completely intact then at least still glimmering. Unlike Laura and Alec, Hadley's characters are not quietly noble, restrained, 'proper' people. Paul and Clara have left their self absorbed little fingerprints all over their messy lives. After five very enjoyable novels Tessa Hadley is an old hand at making troubled relationships fresh and entertaining. She stirs up London Train a bit more by playing fast and loose with chronological order. Hadley has made London Train an observationally acute examination of choices and a terrific read. Time to wait for novel #6.

  • Kirsty Darbyshire
    2019-03-25 01:46

    I picked this up as it jumped out of the Orange Prize longlist at me. Not quite sure why it did that as I've never heard of the author before and I don't remember what I read about it or where. All I can remember is something about it being a book of two halves and that they are linked.I thought it was a great story and one I don't want to say much about as I think all the reviews I've just flicked through (newspaper ones mainly) give away far too much about the characters and the story. I enjoyed coming to it 'cold' with few expectations. Not knowing where/how/why the links would come was good and they didn't come where I thought they were going to though the reviews casually mention them as if they are obvious. Hadley paints some great character portraits here. There's a class issue underlying some of the relationships which I thought was a bit shakily explored. But on the whole I thought the characters were well drawn and fully fleshed out. And going with the "book of two halves" thing there are really two endings. Neither of which were quite what I expected and mostly I'm glad the author left us at those points.An author I'll be looking out for again for sure.

  • Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
    2019-03-26 07:57

    Even before Tessa Hadley's The London Train got on to the Orange Prize longlist, I told Trish of TLC Book Tours that I simply had to read it. And as I sat here waiting for my copy, I found that made it to the longlist and even though I hadn't yet read it, was hoping to see it on the shortlist as well. That didn't happen, but I was still glad to finally start reading this very literary book last week.The London Train is actually two short stories in one book. Or as is the trend now with short stories - two seemingly unconnected stories which are irrevocably connected. Getting into this book, I wasn't aware that there were two distinct stories. When I did know of it, I would have been a tad disappointed had they not been linked. We start off reading about our first protagonist - Paul, and the trip he makes to Birmingham, where his mother has just passed away at an assisted living facility. He is clearly unhinged by her death, even though it was probably unsurprising. The next day, he gets a call from his first wife who tells him that their 20-year old daughter, Pia is missing. When he finally finds Pia in London, he finds her staying in the most unexpected environment - pregnant with a Polish lover who was several years elder to her in a cramped untidy apartment that belonged to the Polish guy's sister. He is completely entranced by what he sees that he moves in with them.In the other story, Cora separates from her husband, Robert, a civil servant who is facing an inquiry at work. She also leaves her career and moves back to Wales, where she chooses to work in a library. Robert and his sister, Frankie, who is also Cora's best friend want her to reconsider, to return back to Robert, but Cora has decided - there is no other lover, she just wants her solitude. The guarded manner in which she holds herself, not letting a single weak emotion betray her shows that she is hiding something, but it isn't until a third of the story in that we really find out. The London Train is a very literary work - one of the best I've read in that category. It took me a while to realize that this is not a book to be rushed. Rather, each word, sentence and phrase has to be savored. There is really very little that happens in this book. If I had to summarize the stories, I probably won't need more than a few sentences to tell you what happens from the first to the last page. But none of that would make much sense without actually living the novel. The feelings of despair, loneliness, anxiety, and confusion that the characters feel literally jump out of the page. I ended up feeling the same as the characters as I was reading the book. Paul was clearly very unlikeable. He did have some good attributes, but his annoying characteristics were more dominant. Rather than bring Pia home or leave her free to do as she wished, as any self-respecting father would do, Paul gets enchanted with her decision and wants to live life in the unsafe lane. Maybe that's his mid-life crisis. Besides, even with a supporting wife and two wonderful kids at home, and the recent death of his mother haunting him, he was disillusioned with his life - enough to let go of himself and allow circumstances to take over.Cora, on the other hand, is too guarded. After her parents' deaths, she revamps their home intending to sell it, but eventually moving into it. The care she puts into maintaining the house's facade and the worry that festers in her mind about anything getting disturbed pretty much mimics the state of her mind. She puts the same energy into masking herself, so much so that she is not able to connect with her best friend at all. For the first many pages, the reader gets the impression that Cora's husband, Robert is just too predictable, too formulaic a person for Cora to handle and so she leaves him. Which is partly true. I found it interesting how the rest of the story tumbled out. I got the sensation that the author was probably teasing the reader, hinting that appearances are deceptive.The stories are clearly only about Paul and Cora. As with most literary novels, the book left me wondering about the arcs of some of the other characters. As opposed to general fiction, where all characters are usually accounted for by the last page, literary fiction such as this stress more on the mystery and continuity of life. Paul and Cora are clearly very flawed human beings. And reading from the perspective of such characters makes for an interesting experience. Most of the narration happens from Paul's and Cora's perspectives. Though sometimes we get a hint of what the others are thinking, to round up the picture. I won't spill out any details of the time when their stories intersect, but I did feel that that event had more of a bearing on Cora's life than on Paul's. I see something of this sort in many of the books I read - the woman gets even more strongly impacted than the man. You could also see that while Cora tries to set her life in order, Paul tries to upset the status quo. I do think married couples need their own moments of privacy often, but I found it disappointing that Paul found it convenient to just disappear for weeks.The London Train is however not without its demerits. While the author's writing made the characters' feelings very personal to me, I found it very detached as well. The hyphenated form of conversation was distracting (- You're joking, Paul said. - Your dad's crazy, he's really crazy.). For a book of this type, I would never suggest the double-quotes as a suitable alternative, because that might lend it a sentiment of triviality - more focus will end up being stressed on the conversations themselves as opposed to what the conversations were meant to evoke in the characters and the reader. I do feel that's a fine and necessary line. But I would have preferred a better way of printing those conversations - sometimes I just wasn't sure if it was a conversation or not. Maybe it doesn't matter - the whole stories were probably meant to happen in my head.I took my own time to rate this book. Halfway through this book, I felt it was a mixed bag for me, but I've been thinking of the book ever since. Which usually means it's pretty thought-provoking. Besides, I absolutely love the title of the book - mainly because once I realized where it came from, it felt smart, succinct and with a world of secrets in that title. This is not a preachy kind of book, in the sense that there are no messages or lessons that you could garner out of it. But it left me thinking about the characters, wondering about their fallibility and their unique responses. How their actions are not just a result of their desires and impulses but also some specific triggers in their lives that make them want to escape. And how most importantly, an action can be judged right or wrong in isolation, but it's not that simple when looked at in context.

  • Friederike Knabe
    2019-04-19 05:06

    Tessa Hadley's novel The London Train is written in two parts and in two distinct voices: that of Paul and Cora. It is a story about identity, one's place in family and society, about memory and forgetting and the small things in life...Paul is a middling middle aged author, married for the second time and with one daughter from his first and two small daughters from his second marriage. When, Pia the twenty-year old drops out of university and then disappears, he leaves his comfortable Welsh ountry life for London in search of her. He does find her and surprising developments and discoveries start from there. It takes him some time to discover that he may be in the middle of a midlife crisis; his actions are not quite convincing to his two wives, his daughter and also himself.The second part takes us back a few years and we meet Cora, a young woman leaving London for Cardiff where she restores her late mother's house. Her life and marriage in London had left her unfulfilled and she is yearning for the quiet simple life in the country… It is not difficult to guess that the two protagonists meet – on the London train of the title – and their lives intertwine for a while. In the process we learn more about Paul, less about Cora and even less about the other characters in the novel. Here two quotes, characterizing Paul and Cora:Paul had been like that since when he was young; always drawn on by news from elsewhere, always wanting to be beginning again in a new place. But then he had changed his mind, and had wanted to be rooted instead.Cora imagined herself in an outpost of culture, far removed from the hub, like a country doctor in a Chechov story, ordering books from Moscow. Tessa Hadley writes fluidly and sensitively; the story is captivating in its own quiet way. We get a sense of the landscape in and around Cardiff and we see a side of London that fits the story. While the drama builds continuously, I did find the ending somewhat too simple. There was a sudden rush that didn't seem fully justified. One recommendation to readers: don't read any of the publication blurbs: they give too much away of the story.

  • Natalie Serber
    2019-04-07 08:13

    I am a big fan of Tessa Hadley. Especially her short fiction. I love her careful attention to details of setting and the amazing intimacy she creates between readers and characters. She is a master at describing a domestic scene in evocative and lyric language. Here for example, she describes the detritus after a party through the eyes of a husband, looking for his wife whom he suspects is being unfaithful."Searching everywhere inside the house, he wasn't sure what to expect. Party mess was piled up in the kitchen, dirty plates, sleazy regiments of bottles, leftover food not put away in the fridge. Upstairs, the spare mattresses were dragged out onto the girls' bedroom floor, extra children were curled heaps under duvets or in sleeping bags. All of them were asleep amid signs of wild play cut short, the toy box upended, dressing-up clothes trampled on the floor where they'd been thrown off. He touched the door to the bedroom across the landing, which stood open as always: swinging back soundlessly, it revealed only the landing light trapped in the mirror, the expanse of white counterpane on their bed undisturbed, Elise's make-up bag on the dressing table disgorging pencils, tweezers, pots of colour. The open window rattled on its catch; the flurry of rain had stirred up smells of earth and growth in the garden. Moths batted inside the luminous paper globe on the landing behind him. Elise was extravagantly absent."Looking at the verbs alone, so much is conveyed (piled, dragged, trapped, upended, trampled) and then layer on the sensory details, the fecund odor after the rain, the mattress dragged onto the floor, moths batting the paper shade, the heaps of girls beneath duvets. All of this description is filtered through the close third point of view of Paul. We slowly move through and take in the house with Paul and our anticipation grows, where is Elise? The description works so hard and yet feels so easy, sleazy bottles, wild play cut short, toy box upended, and then the wonderful use of the adverb, extravagantly! (I believe it was Nabokov who suggested putting the adverb before the verb so the reader experiences a moment of wonder, what is extravagant?) The intimacy is amazing to me, so much interiority, his contradictory feelings of being trapped and being amazed by femininity, revealed in what Hadley makes him notice. In an essay in the Guardian, Hadley says, "The writer has to resist the familiarity, work to find new words and forms to capture the new shapes...the best writing breaks through the skin of the known world." With the above description, I feel Hadley does exactly that, breaks through the skin of the lonely after party house, to describe the internal state of Paul.Despite all of the above, this was not my favorite Hadley work. To read her at her best, seek out the short stories, particularly the collection Sunstroke.

  • Carol
    2019-04-02 07:51

    This story kept me relatively interested until the end. I did not care very much about any of the characters, but I think that was the point. Some of them were exceptionally under-developed, in my opinion, and I felt like I didn't have enough background on them to really appreciate what they brought to the story.This was a hodgepodge of disparate characters whose connections are ill drawn and unsubstantiated. Paul, a father of three living in Wales, steps into a full blown midlife crisis for no discernible reason whatsoever: one day he's whistling Dixie, happy-go- lucky, the next he's `emigrated' to his daughter's London squat where he spends days on end just...wallowing, basically, and lusting after his daughter's friend Anna. Meanwhile, he's left his wife and rather young daughters to fend as best as they can back`at the ranch'. His wife, Elise, knows Paul is a philanderer, but how do you walk away from half a financial proposition when you're raising a young family? Exasperated, desperate and lonely, she clutches on to anything at hand which is `half serviceable', for comfort: in this case a neighbor, Gerald, who is a certified schizophrenic and in the throes of severe mental ups and downs. In her quest for `support' Elise seems to add just one more child to the family. Meanwhile, a bevy of support characters flesh out this parade of highly unlikeable individuals. Paul's daughter Pia is portrayed as a dull waste of space, whom Paul barely tolerates, and his ex-lover Carol is a clingy, desperate woman: just one of many Paul will undoubtedly have. Frankly, not a sympathetic character in sight.The set up is interesting, but I felt like it never really came together for me. The Paul in the Cora section was so wildly different from the Paul in the Elise section, I could hardly recognize or reconcile him as one in the same. Perhaps that was the author's intent--the setting in which we know someone really effects how we know them. I felt it a struggle to unite the two separate stories, and I'm not sure that that wasn't what the author intended, actually, but it didn't quite leave me satisfied at the end of the book.Plus, it lacked the perfect prose of "Clever Girl" that I fell so in love with.

  • Michael Palkowski
    2019-04-15 03:08

    In Hemingway's conceptualization of the Iceberg Theory, he pointed out that a story writer should omit features or details from a story which seek to make the meaning obvious or give away startlingly obvious details. Meaning he insisted was under the surface and thus probably contingent on the reader and the way that reader happened to approach the text. In The London Train, we have a really simple narrative with the odd indulgent description or two featuring multifarious amounts of plants and gardening terminology, instantiating the nature aspect and indeed the unpredictable (Tussocy, Toadflax, Cranesbill, Linchen, Turmeric et al) The stories are on the contrary quite predictable, the first novella with Paul dealing with his pregnant daughter is full of odd loose ends here and there referring back to other pieces. It seems you were meant to indulge in the assumption that he lured after the girly neophyte and that his stay had ulterior motives, only to be thrown into unbelievable banality at times. Characters are too easily edited out and made relevant without the required depth and consideration that is needed to flesh them out. Paul's ex wife for example has little scope beyond her one dimensional role as a hysterical mother who ultimately has little role to play at all, why she has such conflict with her daughter is never really explained which is fine but the plot hardly engenders me to care at all. Paul's character ultimately has the same problems in that he seems flat and monolithic at times despite the author's intention to signify his complexity in scenes where he "incongruously" seeks to leave the entire country leaving behind his current situation. It just rendered him impulsive and boring. This is really a shame because her writing is rich and at times very impressive visually but is let down by character development and an empty mundane plot. It could be argued that Hadley was utilizing the Iceberg Theory in attempting to create characters independent of the page and characters with a life of their own in the mind of those reading, ultimately however, it was just too thin and dainty for my liking.

  • Ti
    2019-04-03 01:03

    The Short of It:Understated, quiet and lovely.The Rest of It:Paul and his second wife Elise have had issues in the past, but at the moment, they seem to be doing well. That is, until he leaves her to live with his pregnant daughter in a ramshackle flat with a couple of strangers. While Paul struggles to find his place in this new arrangement, Cora finds herself utterly conflicted over her recent separation from her husband Robert. The two stories intersect to create a new dynamic that force these characters to face life, head on.This is a book of moments. As a whole, it’s very quiet and simple but there are moments within it that beg to be reread, or even read out loud. There is a lilting, pleasing tone to the writing that I found quite enjoyable. Although at first glance nothing much happens, as this is not a plot-driven novel, there is a lot that happens within the characters. Revelations. Realizations. Understanding.Once, Cora had believed that living had built a cumulative bank of memories, thickening and deepening as time went on, shoring you against emptiness. She had used to treasure up relics from every phase of her life as it passed, as if they were holy. Now that seemed to her a falsely consoling model of experience. The present was always paramount, in a way that thrust you forward: empty, but also free.Readers who enjoy reflection and contemplative musing will truly appreciate this novel. The writing was lovely and it left me with a deep sense of peace. The London Train was longlisted for the Orange Prize but didn’t make the shortlist. A real shame if you ask me.Visit my blog: Book Chatter

  • Meg
    2019-03-24 08:06

    Tessa Hadley’s The London Train, a novel in two parts, has the unique distinction of being both high-brow and accessible. It’s not written with flowery, over-the-top language, but it’s not colloquial or dull, either. Hadley has a way of introducing us to people that we don’t particularly sympathize with but still feel as though we understand. Upon completing the novel, I can’t honestly say that any of these people could be my best friends . . . but I don’t need them to be. I can read about them and their difficult, messy lives, then move on.Very introspective, this novel falls into the category where not much actually happens — but so much does. As the story unfurls and reveals more and more about Paul and Cora’s lives, particularly in the past, we’re painted an accurate glimpse of two very interior lives. The novel could have become dry — very, very easily — but, you know? It didn’t. It really didn’t. I started reading on a Friday evening and wound up finishing almost half before my body threatened to pummel me if I didn’t sleep. Hadley’s writing is mesmerizing.Though it lacked the strong emotional ties I crave to really make a book a favorite, I can certainly see why The London Train was longlisted for the Orange Prize and is generating buzz. The story’s strength, like all good books, lies with the characters. For good or for ill, these were people I really got to know. Without much difficulty, I could probably sketch you a list of their likes and dislikes, pains and triumphs. They’re people who will stay with me, especially Paul. It brings chance encounters to new, romantic and heartbreaking heights.

  • Mrsgaskell
    2019-03-31 23:55

    This was a very absorbing novel, well, two connected novellas really. The first section focused on Paul, a middle-aged writer/reviewer living in rural Wales with his second wife and two young daughters. When the story opens, Paul's mother has just died and he also receives news from his first wife that his twenty-year-old daughter has gone missing. He locates Pia, pregnant and living in a shabby London apartment with her Polish lover. Spurred perhaps by loss and disconnection Paul moves in with them for a time, abandoning his family in Wales. The second novella deals with Cora, in her thirties and separated from her older prominent civil servant husband. She has left their flat in London to renovate the Cardiff house she inherited from her parents. I didn't find either of these characters very sympathetic, especially Paul, was somewhat surprised at the connection between them, and disapproved of the light attitude to pot-smoking of the first section, especially around a pregnant woman. And yet, the writing was excellent and I was drawn into the observation and details of these lives thoroughly, completing the book the day I started it. My favourite character, one I think I might have liked was Frankie, Cora's friend and sister-in-law about whom I would have liked to learn more. There is lots to ponder and discuss in this worthwhile novel but it isn't one that I would recommend to just anyone, even though I liked it myself.

  • Kay
    2019-04-06 08:07

    As with all of Tessa Hadley’s books that I’ve read I liked this very much. Her writing style is sturdy but spare. She provides plenty of plot interest but doesn’t tell you everything straight out; she tells you just enough and let’s you fill in the rest. This book gets better as you go along. I liked the second Cora section better than the first Paul section. The ending is great, the pictures of Cora and Robert in each other’s houses are quite moving and the final section somehow ties the whole book together very effectively (more thematically than plotwise though). It’s an ending that could easily have seemed sentimental but instead feels inevitable and left me with the distinct impression that these characters’ stories would continue after the book’s end. It’s rare for me to be this satisfied with the ending of a book (so often books start out great only to fizzle at the end). I can’t figure out quite how she did it so well here but I wish she’d give lessons.

  • Rosie Morgan
    2019-03-27 07:06

    Rarely have I taken against one of the main characters in a book as much as I did against Paul in ‘The London Train’. It’s unusual to become so caught up with a fictional person, and it’s pretty rare for a person to be so well drawn that I’m actively exasperated by their self-absorption!At first I wondered whether I could cope with reading through to the conclusion, but I kept reading. Just as well I did.This novel is wonderful; layer upon layer revealed with exquisite dexterity. Lives overlapping and merging until the satisfying finale is pulled out of the hat with an understated flourish. Is it too much to liken Tessa Hadley to Thomas Hardy? I stumbled across this book by chance, a beautiful serendipity. I’ll be reading more of Tessa Hadley’s work.

  • Elaine
    2019-03-31 01:45

    Parts of this were deeply thought provoking, surprising and even beautiful. I like how Hadley takes us deep inside the skin of the not-very-likeable Paul, and shows us intensely his point of view, how the irresponsiblity and irritability that define him seem inevitable from his perspective. The abrupt shift to another narrative (Cora's) is interesting, but I didn't feel like the denouement of Cora's story really worked, nor in the end was I satisified by the rather intellectual thread that holds these two stories togther or the overall pacing. So three stars, although sometimes tempted to 4.

  • Sarah Tittle
    2019-04-13 23:58

    Cannot rate this book, which I finished in one day, because I did not know it's actually 2 novellas. The title piece is gorgeous, and begins all laconic and moody and internal. Then, like a train, it gathers speed and momentum. Very British, in a way that I like, sort of formal and informal at the same time. It's just that, when I thought I still had half a book to go, and was really caught up in the story, it stopped. I felt the wind knocked out of me. I was so disappointed. Not the authors fault, just my own stupidity. Looking forward to reading her newest work.

  • Sian Lile-Pastore
    2019-03-26 05:53

    huh. was quite surprised how much I enjoyed this. I was hooked and wanted to get back to it all the time. The characters are interesting and not particularly pleasant (that paul is obnoxious and a douche) and I loved the different points of view and how characters intersect one another's stories. It's a quiet, almost gentle novel, but it was captivating and I will be reading more of Hadley's books.

  • Jeanne
    2019-04-06 06:09

    This novel is divided into two - the first half tells the story of a middle-aged man and his missing teenage daughter (about how he handles it, his relationships with his second family and with his first wife, the girl's mother), and the second tells about a middle-aged woman who has left her husband of many years but wonders where she should go from there. The two stories intersect (naturally) in a way I didn't expect. I enjoyed it a lot through the first half and half way into the second half (two-thirds?) but it sort of peters out at the end. The writing is smart and never maudlin or cliche so it's better than your average novel about families and re-finding one's self after being defined by a family or relationship for so long - it's not "chick lit." It is very character-driven, so if that isn't your thing, you'll be bored waiting for things to "happen" here. I enjoyed it and look forward to more from Tessa Hadley in the future.

  • Sally Koslow
    2019-04-16 04:07

    Few contemporary authors use language as beautifully as Tessa Hedley

  • Natalie
    2019-03-26 03:01

    i started this book feeling unmotivated to finish it, but i think it was a rewarding read. the expectations of a book depend on the blurb or what i know of the plot, here, the tales of two different people, hurtling towards a symmetrical moment in time when they meet on a london train, and the effects of that encounter. this suggested to me, that what i was reading beforehand—a narrative first focusing on paul’s life, then cora’s—would be the prologue to the encounter, and thus settled into this expectation. these narratives chugged along without disturbance or interference, almost mundane, and i felt inclined to give up.i feel like, if someone states, he cheated on his wife, or places emphasis on this action/label, it immediately characterizes and imposes certain ideas about a person. instead of throwing this into the open from the beginning, hadley charts the daily movements of paul, and when he finally leaves his wife, i am surprised by it, this turn of events, because i hadn’t thought of him that way, or hadn’t realized this part of his mind. but then, that seems to me, an accurate portrayal of a person—how we do not think we are capable of such things, perhaps uncharacteristic actions, until the act itself is done. i didn’t feel like i liked paul very much. and yet, his character takes shape in a holistic manner, which is the power of her writing, to describe private thoughts, intruding into the mind of the character, while remaining firmly planted in reality. paul goes to look for his daughter from his first marriage after she runs away from her mother: swollen with pregnancy, married at twenty and shacked away in an apartment on the dirtier side of london. he begins to—fall in love is the wrong term—think of his daughter’s husband’s sister as an object of affection, lusts for her. when i read this i felt like, it was wrong to think of paul as only his role as a father, which he is presented as in the beginning, but must acknowledge his thoughts as one belonging to an individual. and so the london train re-works our initial impressions of a person, constantly, re-writing them over and over again till you feel like, and i guess this is the point, that you can never know what a person is like, what we know of a person is what they have filtered into acceptable presentation. there are so many secret things shut away in the realm of the private mind that we can never hope to know. and these things which we do not have access to make up the whole of a person. i feel like i am not explaining this adequately. the development of character is slow but it mirrors life, shows that the way a person changes isn’t overnight. certain thought processes ferment over time, then lead up to an action. but our impressions of a person can change over night.cora’s story was interesting, i’m not sure why. i think because she has such a hold on her idea of herself, she sees herself in a certain light and her actions correspond with this person. her perception is sharp, and yet she seems lost, in both her job as a librarian—the meaningless routine of organization that empties the mind of academic/real thought, unchallenging— like how, she seems sure of her decision to leave her husband. her story begins with robert, her husband, waiting for her outside of her parents’ place (they are dead), wanting to speak to her about divorce papers and to split the money out of their shared flat. she declines. this story weaves in and out of the present, telling us how they met etc. then this our impressions of these two people are blown open by the encounter, which happened PRIOR and not AFTER, as i had first believed. i have to re-adjust my understanding of these two people, the significance of their affair on their respective marriages…in the end cora returned to her husband, he doesn’t know anything about paul/how she felt about him (imagining paul and her as one future). after we learn of her affair and understand why she left him, for a while. there’s this phrase that hit home—what words were there for what had happened while they were apart

  • christa
    2019-04-04 03:04

    Paul's mother has just died. She will continue to appear in his dreams. His of-age daughter Pia, from his first marriage, has dropped out of school and has hidden her pregnant self in an apartment in London with her older Polish boyfriend and his sister. And his asshole neighbor is chopping down the trees in a gray area of property line limbo. When he and his wife get into a snit about how to handle the neighbor, Paul uses the argument as an emergency exit. He ditches out on domesticity -- his sturdy upper crust wife who works in furniture restoration and their two young daughters -- and takes the train into the city with plans to take care of Pia.He falls face-first into Pia's boyfriend's sister's couch and then meanders. He walks, he hangs in coffee shops and eventually he is working with Pia's boyfriend who is trying to build an import business.Tessa Hadley takes a gamble, introducing readers first to Paul in her novel The London Train, which starts with Paul's story, then segues into the story of a much more satisfying character, Cora whose life intersected Paul's briefly.Paul isn't necessarily nice. He meanders. He is the type of person whom his friends reluctantly cover for, whose wife's friends tolerate. He is a writer, not adverse to a fling, or an unsolicited cupping of a woman's breast just because he cannot help himself. He's going through a rough stretch to be sure. But it seems he wouldn't not do these things if he wasn't. He's certainly not interesting. You imagine him walking with his hands in his pockets responding to the pokes and prods of chance.After Paul's slice ends, Hadley moves on to Cora's story. The death of her mother, an inability to get pregnant, and a situation involving a fire for which her government employee husband is taking the heat has her crippled with depression. She leaves her job as an English teacher and returns to her childhood home, first to get it ready to be sold, eventually just moving in and taking a job at the library. It takes Hadley a bit to pinpoint Cora's funk. Then the backstory of Paul, a pompous man she had met on a train, emerges and it is clear that she took respite in a short-lived affair with him. Through her eyes, Paul is still self-centered. Dabbling in something that obviously means more to her. Stealing away for a weekend with her, but making sure she knows that if he has to choose, he chooses his wife and daughters.For about 60 pages this is a gripping story, not a bodice ripper or fate or anything close to romantic. It's a situation romance, seemingly medicinal for both of them. Curing Paul of the day-to-day prospect of living life, probably, and giving Cora something to look forward to. The rub: Cora is mentioned briefly in Paul's part of the book. He refers to her generically as one of two women with whom he has had extra maritial daliances. Meanwhile, Cora waxes and wanes and has tear-lettings and rips up letters and stops cold in her tracks when she hears his voice on the radio.It's the meaning-of-Paul-to-Cora versus Cora's-meaning-to-Paul that is the best part of a book that hangs out too long with the minutia, and then deviates into unlikely decisions and finales.

  • Pieshine
    2019-03-27 02:46

    Hmmm...I don't usually write these b/c I can't muster the energy to be so articulate. (I think I expended all that energy years ago in college.) Anyway, have to echo much of what the other 3-starrers are saying. I do like Ms. Hadley's writing. The storyline, though meandering, kept me interested. But the characters! Paul and Cora...I just plain didn't care for either of them. I know I risk sounding like a huge prude...but, geessh, are there any value-systems out there anymore? Paul pretends to care about important things, but is a lousy a both marriage and fatherhood. Elise should dump him like a hot-potato. And he just leaves his daughter's for weeks on end to hang out with his older daughter who, not unsurprisingly, was looking for a father figure in Malek b/c, surprise, Paul was an absentee father. Paul's interest in Pia's arrangement seems suspiciously connected to the thrills he experiences connected to Malek's sister. As for Cora...she nonchalantly has a fling with married Paul after meeting him ONE TIME on a train. Obviously I am dull, dull, dull, as are all my friends, b/c who does this? She supposedly is disappointed that she can't have children, but really isn't cut out for motherhood based on her lack of interest in Frankie's children,and other general lack of enthusiasm. And I wasn't really clear on why she left her poor hapless husband, why she went back, and why would he be foolish enough to get back with her. He deserves better. It is just a matter of time before she has another random affair in her fifties based on some kind of vague ennui. As another reviewer stated, I was actually more interested in some of the other characters...Elise, Frankie, even Gerald, Malek and his sister, etc. (Have no interest in the juvenile man/boy Pia carefully selected as the father of her child. I can see a sequel here...Pia will be ripe for an affair/leaving the kid with James in about 7 years.)Still, for all this grousing, the book got me thinking and I actually think it would be decent book club selection b/c discussing the characters and their confusing choices would be fun.

  • Misha
    2019-04-09 04:03

    I didn't love this book but I did enjoy reading it for the most part. The book is divided into two halves--the first is about Paul, a rather selfish poet whose older daughter from a previous marriage becomes pregnant; he leaves his 2nd wife and 2 daughters for a while to be with his older daughter. The second half is about Cora who met Paul on a train years before and had an affair with him. It's a quiet character study of both. It was the writing that kept me going.Here are two passages I liked:"Once, Cora had believed that living built a cumulative bank of memories, thickening and deepening as time went on, shoring you up against emptiness. She had used to treasure up relics from every phase of her life as it passed, as if they were holy. Now that seemed to her a falsely consoling model of experience. The present was always paramount, in a way that thrust you forward: empty, but also free. Whatever stories you told over to yourself and others, you were in truth exposed and naked in the present, a prow cleaving new waters; your past was insubstantial behind, it fell away, it grew desuetude, its forms grew obsolete. The problem was, you were always still alive, until the end. You had to do something.""These had been his mother's favourites, he liked them for her sake, eben though he hadn't been close to her. He had used to dread the scenes she made. Probably he'd been horribly priggish, he thought now. His mother must have thought he was trying to imitate his father's detachment. She must have seen through the stubborn, principled stands that Robert made when he was a boy and a young man, pretending he was the only sane and reasonable one, conforming to some inflexible standard of decency and decorum, while all the time he was burning with a rage like hers, only turned inwards. In Robert's dreamy, sluggish state now, the music penetrated him purely, without distraction."

  • Lucinda
    2019-04-09 04:54

    This novel was full of little segments that crept under my skin, little insights about people's motivations and opinions and self-deceptions that are perhaps more familiar than I would like to acknowledge. Take this quote for instance:"Saving herself from having to think, she took her book into the cemetery to read while she ate her sandwiches. She wasn't reading anything strenuous these days: women's novels, commercial novels, some of which, she and Annette agreed, were remarkably well written, better than much so-called literary fiction, more true to life. SHe hardly ever thought now about what she had learned when she did her English degree. Her imagination was crammed with women's stories, most of which began with a collapse like hers, some loss of faith or love, losses more catastrophic than anything she had endured. She devoured them, one after another, turning the pages with hasty hands, impatient for the resolution. As soon as she'd finished one, she would start in upon the next."I have had many discussions with friends about what people read and why; about the function that reading fulfills in one's life. Hell, our book club, consisting of four women (all doing phds in anthropology), plans to read a book about women's book clubs, and I often puzzle on the novel as a category of text, a form of writing, generally identified with women.And really, this small segment of the book is only a tiny slice of all the matter that Hadley draws on in her examination of the lives of two people, Paul and Cora, that intersect when they take the train from Wales to London.Because of Hadley's keen insight in the little details presented in the book, i am a bit hesitant to be critical of the actual story told in The London Train. it seemed small and surface in comparison with other themes in the book.

  • Andrew
    2019-04-01 01:47

    Periodically I like to read a good domestic middle class drama where people struggle with famil and their emotions, thus I have enjoyed Patrick Gale and Maggie O'Farrell, however this genre can also be one where I am often tempted to throw the book across the room because the characters are really irritating or what they do is just unbelievable. I heard one of Tessa Hadley's short stories in The BBC short story awards last year and her interview was interesting so when I saw this in the library I thought I'd give it a go and I really enjoyed it. The book is split into four parts, in part one we meet Paul a middle aged poetry critic coming to terms with his mother's death at the same time as his adult daughter has gone missing. He leaves his family home in Wales where his second wife and two young daughters live to try and find her in London. In part two we meet Cora a woman in her 30's who has left her older husband and retreated to the home of her deceased parents in Cardiff where her university friend who is husbands younger sister visits with Cora's nieces and nephews. In Part three we go back a few years where the train from London to Cardiff has a role, and in part 4 we find out what has happened now to Cora and Paul. Yes there is a lot of domestic angst but the characters were believable and I felt engaged by their problems to the point where I wanted to read on. The writing was well done with a sense of drama although the only characters I didn't engage entirely with were the polish family we meet in part one, but that didn't deflect from my enjoyment. I will definitely read more of her books.

  • Allyson
    2019-04-08 08:14

    I don't like this cover and initially I thought I would also dislike the book. I was curious how she would entwine the 2 stories, at least enough to read into Part II. Her presentation of Cora was much stronger and more believable than Paul. I found it interesting how she joined the 2 also and having already developed a feel for Paul, it was curious to see him through Cora's eyes. I had hoped it would end on a high note, a believable note, but the last 4 pages left me deflated. Maybe had she presented it on a less staged level, I would have accepted it, but as it was it left me with a "so what, that is all you have to offer?" feeling.At least it was a fast read. I doubt I will read another of her books, having quite liked the first 2, but disappointed in The Master Bedroom and now again ultimately with this one.A shame as her words are beautiful but it did not hang together well and I am bored with reading about infatuation. Or maybe it is just infatuation alone, outside a context of a life. Too many unravelled threads or maybe just an inexpert technique to make it readable. Harsh I know as I could not write this well or imaginatively and I feel petty writing this critique, but I wanted more which I did not get. And somehow that makes it worse.

  • Candice
    2019-04-13 00:51

    “Once, Cora had believed that living built a cumulative bank of memories, thickening and deepening as time went on, shoring you against emptiness. She had used to treasure up relics from every phase of her life as it passed, as if they were holy. Now that seemed to her a falsely consoling model of experience. The present was always paramount, in a way that thrust you forward: empty, but also free. Whatever stories you old over to yourself and others, you were in truth exposed and naked in the present, a prow cleaving new waters; your past was insubstantial behind, it fell away, it grew into desuetude, its forms grew obsolete. The problem was, you were always still alive, until the end. You had to do something.” Hadley requires a closer reading; it's almost like she structures her sentences architecturally. I am used to racing through modern novels, but if you do this with her, you will miss the carefully placed words and thoughts - she knows how set words together as opposed to simply talking on the page, as many writers these days do. The paragraph above is not what I"m specifically referring to, but an example of her many insights on living.

  • Dpdwyer
    2019-04-10 03:10

    Two wonderful related novellas that explore the vagaries of marriage in modern London. Among many other things, I liked that there were a number of references to unusual hot weather, which suggested an awareness of climate change. Quotes:"...the surge of her inner life, which mostly wasn't disclosed to him: deeper and more chaotic than it ever showed itself in the words they exchanged. He felt as if he hardly knew her, this wife and mother of his children. When they first met he had been drawn to Elise because she seemed complete and fearless, with all the bright presumption of the class she came from.""Love is a kind of comfortable pretence, she thought, muffling everyone's separation from one another, which is absolute."" was remarkable, he thought, how little mark the tumult of inward experience leaves on the external shells we inhabit."