Christopher's Reviews > Night Train to Lisbon

Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
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Mar 29, 2008

did not like it
Read in March, 2008

Apparently, Page des Libraires calls this 'One of the great European novels of the past few years'- compared to what? The SNCF Railway Timetable.

This book makes me incredibly angry. And after some thought I can honestly award it the 'worst book I have ever read' award. I could forgive it for being slow. I could forgive the missed opportunities of drawing what potentially could have been interesting characters in two dimensions. I could even forgive the shockingly bad translation (it has not even been properly proofed or sub-edited and some of the words are just wrongly translated).

But what I cannot forgive or forget are the pitiful attempts at philosophy the book espouses, particularly through the supposed writings of the dead Amadeu de Prado. They read like the ramblings of a conceited teenager.

I read this book to the end, out of spite and because I refused to let it defeat me. It was a battle of the wills and I won. But what a shocking, shameful, sham this piece of cod philosophy. Do not buy this book, even if you are intrigued to see how bad it is.
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02/06/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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Linda at first i thought your review was quite harsh but now having read 2/3rds of the book i couldn't agree more with what you've said.


Maia not sure i agree that it's as bad as all that but i do agree with you on nearly everything: there's something completely demagoguic in here that i can smell a mile away!


Laura I'm glad it's not just me who finishes terrible books out of spite...


message 4: by Kinga (new)

Kinga Thanks. It is today's Kindle Daily Deal for 99p and I was considering.. thanks for saving me 99p and a few a hours of my life.


Cath Your review is a lot harsher than mine, but I can't help agreeing with you! I wasted 99p and several hours...


message 6: by Yashie (new)

Yashie thank goodness you thought the translation abominable: I look forward to reading the book in the original. I enjoyed the film!


Aslihan +1 (completely)


Robert Hoogstad Vastly overrated.


message 9: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Humphreys I have tried to read this book...twice, and gave up both times. It was slower than wading through treacle and I found myself uninterested in the outcome. I am an avid reader but this left me stone cold.


message 10: by Ian (new) - rated it 1 star

Ian You may be my long lost brother. You are absolutely and completely correct.


Richard I don't know that the point was that we were ever supposed to agree with Prado's pontificating. The main message I took from it was the folly of over-thinking life. It's a good antidote to an overly melancholic approach to life (in the sense of the 4 classical temperaments). I didn't mind it, but I read it only in short bursts over a couple of weeks, and didn't try to understand Prado when he became impenetrable - I just took it as a sign of his madness. I can fully get your point though - Prado was profoundly irritating and conceited.


Theresa I read the whole book thinking I would eventually understand what the fuss was about. Nope!


message 13: by Cassie ♥ (new)

Cassie ♥ Thank you for your review. I hate it when I read hype like "Europe’s biggest literary blockbusters" only to end up reading a whole book and coming away frustrated. Thank you for your honesty. Also, thank you to the 52 people who liked your review which tells me you are not alone.--I'm not going to hit like as I have not read the book---nor after reading your review will I!!


message 14: by Leftbanker (new)

Leftbanker I can’t believe that this book was popular. I couldn’t make it past the first over-written and pretentious 100 pages. That part about how one man read and wrote Greek perfectly and although he went to the theater often he didn’t really get Greek drama. As if scholarship is some hyper-elite club that only the select few can enter.


Starlo This review echoes my own experience entirely! Well said Sir!


Thebanshees Thank you for your review. I feel understood! :)


Jacqueline Zirkzee So relieved: I am not alone.


message 18: by Samah (new)

Samah I bought this book a long long time ago and today I realized that I haven't finished it yet. Probably because I was so bored reading it so I thought I should read some reviews. I read urs and I think I can't force myself to finish it like u did. but I'm soo curious to know what happens in the end.


message 19: by Ian (new) - rated it 1 star

Ian Nothing.Nothing at all.


Laura Corna The write is a philosophy teacher of Berlin University, so I guess he knows philosophy better than you...
The book is slow because the trip inside ourselves is slow.


message 21: by Kinga (new)

Kinga Laura wrote: "The write is a philosophy teacher of Berlin University, so I guess he knows philosophy better than you...
The book is slow because the trip inside ourselves is slow."


Just because someone teaches philosophy doesn't mean they can create their own philosophy that's worth anything. Also, how do you know what Christopher does for a living?


Shelley Alas, thank you for this review that finally calls the book out for what it is. Professor Mercier needs a serious lesson on what makes a novel. Hint: it's not one-dimensional characters, pages after pages of ramblings that I purged out of my own journal by the time I hit age 25, and the obvious academician's daydream that everyone he encounters would find him the most interesting, compelling person ever). Seriously, Wikipedia's entry on Salazar was more interesting.


message 23: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Humphreys Just read this post again and it makes me smile. It is exactly my thoughts on this awful book.


Brandon You're wrong on one point - SNCF timetables are more interesting.


DEBORAH SCHIAVONE I so agree. I actually skipped chapters in order to save my sanity and compromise my goal to go till the end. It was almost the end of me. It certainly ended a possibility for a savory weekend. I could have gotten more out of a Norwegian murder mystery.


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