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The London Train

3.14 of 5 stars 3.14  ·  rating details  ·  1,352 ratings  ·  250 reviews
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 cons ...more
Paperback, 324 pages
Published 2011 by HarperCollins
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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, s
Kasey Jueds
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 cr ...more
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 ...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
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 enjoy
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
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
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
Friederike Knabe
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 ou
Michael Palkowski
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 g ...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
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 sto
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 ...more
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 ...more
“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 pr ...more
Sian Lile-Pastore
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.
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 ...more
Natalie Serber
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 pile
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 pre ...more
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,
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 c ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 s ...more
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
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 thes
I was rather disappointed by this. Split into 2 section, the first narrative concerning Paul was sluggish and turgid-what an unappealing character! The second section was much more interesting-although heaven knows what attraction Cora saw in Paul. There were some nice descriptive scenes in this section-but that alone was not enough to redeem it. Her story was interesting, and I would have much preferred had it been longer, and examined/resolved her issues. The final disappointment was the conc ...more
Truly literary fiction as genre rather than elevation. Pretty good writing, horrible, pointless plot. The story veers from Paul to Cora in the middle and if I hadn't figured that would happen in the first place this would've gotten 1 star. (Nobody does it like Michael Ondaatje!)
I very much enjoyed this book. In structure, the book is unusual, being almost 2 separate novella, but the link between the two becomes obvious very quickly in the second part. Tessa Hadley is a literate author who blends in snatches of poetry and concerns about the environment while telling the story of 2 separate families living in Cardiff and London. A chance meeting on the train to London is what links the two stories.

I found out about this book in the New York Times Literary Reeview a few m
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 ...more
Being of English ancestry, I periodically like to read & review books written & published in Great Britain.

This particular one was unusual in two different ways. The dialogue was not in quotation marks, but a dash was used instead at the left of the line to start each person's comment in a conversation. Also, the book was written in an unusual style, wherein two totally separate stories were merged at the end.

The first half of the book dealt with Paul, a writer, married to Elise & h
The blurb at the back of book is, in my opinion, misleading. Based on it and the cover I thought I was getting mystery/suspense novel. In fact it is two fiction novellas, linked together only by a chance encounter on the London train.

First part: about Paul, a man with a late-midlife crisis, reflects on his life triggered by the death of his mother. For me it fails because I could not care for, or relate to, any of the characters (particularly Paul). It takes place at his country home in Wales, a
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2015: The Year of...: The London Train by Tessa Hadley 23 38 Mar 01, 2015 10:32AM  
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Tessa Hadley is the author of Sunstroke and Other Stories, and the novels The Master Bedroom, Everything Will Be All Right, and Accidents in the Home. She lives in Cardiff, Wales, and teaches literature and creative writing at Bath Spa University.
More about Tessa Hadley...
Clever Girl Married Love and Other Stories The Master Bedroom Sunstroke and Other Stories Accidents in the Home

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“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 into desuetude, its forms grew obsolete. The problem was, you were always still alive, until the end. You had to do something.” 1 likes
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