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Archive > Group Read -> November 2019 -> Nomination thread (A book about Railways/Railroads won by Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith)

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message 1: by Nigeyb (last edited Aug 21, 2019 12:00AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
The theme for our Group Read November 2019 is....


Railways/Railroads

So you can nominate either fiction or non-fiction connected to railways


Here's some the Guardian came up with a few years back...

The Railway Children by E Nesbit (1906)

Far from despoiling the landscape, as had been feared, the railway lines had – by Edwardian times – become honorary features of it. The children in this charming story find the country railway "a joy" and actually play on the tracks. (Not such a brilliant idea, as it turns out, but the consequences are not fatal.) The cosiness of the world they inhabit is offset with over-arching mystery: where is there father, and will he ever return?

Stories of the Railway by VL Whitechurch (1912)

Canon Victor L Whitechurch wrote short stories of railway police work with elegantly constructed mysteries. His main detective, Thorpe Hazell, is somewhat undynamic: "a gentleman of independent means, whose knowledge of book editions and bindings was only equalled by a grasp of railway details." But readers will seldom guess whodunnit.

Bradshaw's April 1910 Railway Guide (1968)

Until the 1960s the main railway timetables in Britain were known as Bradshaws, after George Bradshaw, who'd started publishing his monthly Railway Guides in 1841. In 1968, the railway publishing firm of David & Charles reprinted the one from April 1910, since it depicted our railways at their very peak of mileage. The Guardian said it was a waste of time, "like painting union jacks on chamber pots", but it was a bestseller. I love the rambling eccentricities, as in footnotes reading things like "But not on Tuesdays", "Market days only", "Change here for Loch Lomond steamer". Punch used to satirise these, with its own mocked-up Bradshaws, featuring footnotes like "Ignore this – it is only here to confuse you."

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux (1975)

It must be admitted that railways tend to attract people (and by "people", I mean men) whose commitment to fact precludes any sense of humour, human character, mystery, romance. The antidote is Theroux. This book recounts a four-month journey by rail through Asia. Theroux is also a novelist, so the dialogue between him and the shifting cast of oddballs sitting opposite him is a particular pleasure.

The Railway Station: A Social History by Jeffrey Richards and John M Mackenzie (1986)

Along with the Oxford Companion to British Railway History, this is the railway reference book I most often turn to. It is international and lovingly comprehensive, so Lowestoft and Filey jostle in the index along with Grand Central New York and Gare du Nord. There are also chapters on the station in literature, film, paintings and postcards.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...


Some more inspiration here...
https://www.bookdepository.com/catego...

...and here....
https://www.waterstones.com/category/...

See also...
Rail transport in fiction
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_tr...

Railways in crime fiction
https://crimefictionlover.com/2015/01...

Top 10 Train Thrillers
https://www.abebooks.co.uk/books/rail...


Over to you.




message 2: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments Provisional nomination: God's Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembène.
I need to check availability and price before making this a firm nomination.
The book is about building the Dakar-Niger Railway in French West Africa (Senegal and Mali, not Niger). This is not a railway journey I have undertaken, although I did plan to do so. We hung around Dakar for several days trying to find out if the trains were running, before giving up and booking the coach (which was a story in itself).


message 3: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 972 comments That reminds me of a book I've wanted to read: The Railway Man set during the Japanese occupation of Burma in WW2... but my nomination is more frivolous: Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith - Graham Greene described her as the 'poet of apprehension'.


message 4: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments Patricia Highsmith is not frivolous.


message 5: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia | 972 comments Maybe in comparison with being a Japanese POW on the notorious Burma railway she is? A bit? But yes, her blackly funny stories in Little Tales of Misogyny make penetrating points alongside the misanthropic humour.


message 6: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "Maybe in comparison with being a Japanese POW on the notorious Burma railway she is? A bit?"
Granted.


message 7: by Nigeyb (last edited Aug 21, 2019 03:17AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
The Railway Man is a harrowing read - but a good one


Thanks for Strangers on a Train - I may well get behind that one and not bother nominating myself. I'm keen to read more Patricia Highsmith who is perhaps more playful than frivolous? Either way, there's an undercurrent of darkness, which I appreciate.

All that said, God's Bits of Wood sounds intriguing too if Val goes ahead. A cursory look on Amazon UK suggests it is a little expensive, and with no Kindle edition, but I spotted a few cheap second hand copies around.


message 8: by Val (last edited Aug 21, 2019 03:22AM) (new)

Val | 1342 comments Nigeyb wrote: "God's Bits of Wood sounds intriguing too if Val goes ahead. A cursory look on Amazon UK suggests it is a little expensive, and with no Kindle edition, but I spotted a few cheap second hand copies around."
It is not looking any cheaper or readily available on other sites, so I think it is a non-starter. I will leave the nomination as provisional for a few days, in case anyone wants to add it to their TBR, but I will not be confirming it.


message 9: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
Understandable Val - thanks for the update


I look forward to your nomination, if you decide to nominate, as you always come up with intriguing and interesting selections


message 10: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments Nigeyb wrote: "...you always come up with intriguing and interesting selections"
Synonym for obscure?


message 11: by Sue (new)

Sue (mrskipling) | 130 comments I won't nominate this because the world and his wife had already read it, but I just finished Murder on the Orient Express for the umpty-numptyeth time. I think that one of the intriguing things about a long-distance train journey is the combination of the familiar and the strange. We get to know all the occupants quite well over the period of this story, yet the outside world doesn't intrude at all as they pass through the various countries. In fact it wouldn't have mattered which country the murder happened in, since the local police are not involved at all.

When I've gone on long train journeys myself, it's almost mesmerising the way the countryside floats past, very close and yet completely unreachable. Although I have to say the Eurostar doesn't quite match the Orient Express for an experience!

I've discovered the Railway Detective series recently (through a thread on the Reading The Detectives group I think) and enjoyed them. Eg The Railway Detective but again they are very well-known, so I'll just wait to see what more original suggestions other people have for this subject.


Elizabeth (Alaska) | 1044 comments Nigeyb wrote: "Either way, there's an undercurrent of darkness, which I appreciate.."

It's more than an undercurrent, but I think you will like it.


message 13: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
Has anyone read....


The Railway Children by E. Nesbit?

I've only ever seen the classic film. This thread got me wondering about whether the book is worth reading too.


message 14: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments I read it and enjoyed it very much when I was a child, but haven't read it as an adult.


message 15: by Jill (new)

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 255 comments I never read Nesbit as a child but have read a few in the last few years,and was sorry I missed out on them


message 16: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
Thanks Val, thanks Jill. I'm not nominating it but am sure I'd quite enjoy it, even as a mature gentleman


message 17: by Robin (last edited Aug 21, 2019 12:47PM) (new)

Robin Nigeyb wrote: "Has anyone read....


The Railway Children by E. Nesbit?

I've only ever seen the classic film. This thread got me wondering about whether the book is worth reading too."


Nesbit is wonderful. She was the literary ancestor of J.K. Rowling. The Railway Children has no magic in it, though many of her books do. She wrote about children who argue with their siblings, get dirty, love to read and act out stories. This was new (100 years ago) as most books were kids were preachy and unrealistic. Her private life was kind of a mess, as told by A. S. Byatt in The Children's Book

Trains are a natural for mysteries because you have a closed environment with a limited cast of characters. The 3rd Phryne Fisher mystery is Murder on the Ballarat Train


message 18: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
Thanks Robin - she sounds amazing


message 19: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
I was just reading about....


Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China (1988) by Paul Theroux

...which sounds interesting

Paul Theroux, the author of the train travel classics The Great Railway Bazaar and The Old Patagonian Express, takes to the rails once again in this account of his epic journey through China. He hops aboard as part of a tour group in London and sets out for China's border. He then spends a year traversing the country, where he pieces together a fascinating snapshot of a unique moment in history. From the barren deserts of Xinjiang to the ice forests of Manchuria, from the dense metropolises of Shanghai, Beijing, and Canton to the dry hills of Tibet, Theroux offers an unforgettable portrait of a magnificent land and an extraordinary people.

This book was written as a travelogue, but it now serves as an excellent way of understanding China thirty years ago. The journey described in the book took place in 1987/88, a crucial time in the development of China, when it was transitioning from a poor country to the power it has now become. At times the China Theroux describes is barely recognisable to the modern reader, a testament to how much the country has changed.



message 20: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 219 comments We could add The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, we may know it the film adaption The Lady Vanishes directed by Alfred Hitchcock.


message 21: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 2642 comments Mod
I've been wondering about whether to nominate one of several quirky non-fiction books where writers take various train trips, often retracing the trips of earlier travellers. They are often 21st v 19th century though, so fall both sides of our period!

One like this which I have started but not finished was Slow Train to Switzerland: One Tour, Two Trips, 150 Years - and a World of Change Apart by Diccon Bewes - I think my main problem with this was tiny print rather than any fault in the book, though. He is retracing the journey of Jemima Morell, a woman who went on the first conducted Thomas Cook tour of Switzerland.

Others that sound interesting are
Tiny Stations: An Uncommon Odyssey Around Britain's Railway Request Stops by Dixe Wills

and two by Andrew Martin:
Belles and Whistles: Five Journeys Through Time on Britain's Trains
Night Trains: The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper - I do rather fancy this one as it is on European sleepers.
(I also recommend his Jim Stringer series, which starts with The Necropolis Railway).

Has anyone read any of these or others along the same lines (sorry, no pun intended) which you would recommend?


message 22: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 2642 comments Mod
Another possibility is Stamboul Train by Graham Greene, which I remember enjoying although it is very early and I don't think it is one of his best.

I've also heard good things about Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier, but it is very long and I'm not sure how much of it is actually about the train?


message 23: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 2642 comments Mod
I read The Railway Children many times as a child, and have also seen the film and the TV remake, and the stage production which was shown in cinemas live - my husband was keen to see that one because it was staged at a station and he is a big rail enthusiast.

Nesbit was one of my favourite authors as a child, and I liked her magic books, but my favourite by her was The Story of the Treasure Seekers, about a family of children who try various ways of making their fortunes, which is very witty. The sequels are less good, though.


message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael (mikeynick) | 219 comments Not a nomination, "Broken Routine", as it is a very short story in Jeffery Archer's collection 'A Quiver Full of Arrows'.
It all takes place in a railway carriage.


message 25: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
So, as I read it so far, we’ve only got one definitive nomination.....


Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith


Please be clear if you are actually nominating, and not just raising possibilities or books that might fit in


message 26: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 2642 comments Mod
None of mine are nominations as yet.


message 27: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
Nominations so far....


Roman Clodia: Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith


It's fine just to have one nomination - it means we just read, in this instance, Strangers on a Train


However I suspect there may be a few more forthcoming

Who else is nominating? Or thinking they might nominate?





message 28: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 2642 comments Mod
I would like to nominate, but am not sure which of the books I've mentioned to go for - or whether to think of something else altogether. Does anyone like those kinds of non-fiction books about train journeys?


message 29: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 2642 comments Mod
This is another one which sounds interesting (again not a nomination), but it is a new book this year so not 20th century!

Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure by Monisha Rajesh.


message 30: by Nigeyb (last edited Aug 22, 2019 12:40AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "Does anyone like those kinds of non-fiction books about train journeys?"


I have not read any yet but have enjoyed some more general travel writing (Patrick Leigh Fermor, Evelyn Waugh etc). I was looking at the Paul Theroux train books and thinking they looked quite interesting.


message 31: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 2642 comments Mod
Thanks, Nigeyb. I've just thought of something different which I may nominate instead, although it is very short, I see you have read it - do you think there would be enough to discuss?

Closely Observed Trains by Bohumil Hrabal

For gauche young apprentice Milos Hrma, life at the small but strategic railway station in Bohemia in 1945 is full of complex preoccupations. There is the exacting business of dispatching German troop trains to and from the toppling Eastern front; the problem of ridding himself of his burdensome innocence; and the awesome scandal of Dispatcher Hubicka's gross misuse of the station's official stamps upon the telegraphist's anatomy. Beside these, Milos's part in the plan for the ammunition train seems a simple affair.


message 32: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "Thanks, Nigeyb. I've just thought of something different which I may nominate instead, although it is very short, I see you have read it - do you think there would be enough to discuss?"

Oh definitely Judy, although Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal is a mere 84 pages, and beautifully reissued in the wonderful Penguin Modern Classics imprint, it packs a heck of a lot in.

It's an accomplished, moving, funny, compassionate, unusual, and informative novel with a strong sense of time and place.

Review here....
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...




message 33: by Ian (new)

Ian | 248 comments NOT a nomination from me but a fictional book about railroads which is slightly different and may be worthy of consideration is:

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead


message 34: by Nigeyb (last edited Aug 22, 2019 01:24AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
I've got that on the shelf waiting for the right moment Ian. Sadly it's set in the 19th century, so not suitable for a group read nomination, but we could do it as a buddy read at some stage


message 35: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments I liked The Underground Railroad a lot. It was my favourite of the five US novels on the Booker long list that year (which means I preferred it to the winner, Lincoln in the Bardo). I probably wouldn't read it again, but would chip in on the buddy read discussion if you have one.

We perhaps should have a non-fiction rail travel alternative. I will find one I want to nominate.


message 36: by Ian (new)

Ian | 248 comments Nigeyb wrote: "I've got that on the shelf waiting for the right moment Ian. Sadly it's set in the 19th century, so not suitable for a group read nomination, but we could do it as a buddy read at some stage"

Thanks for that Nigeyb - I didn’t realise that ‘group read’ nominations had to be set/written (?) in the 20th century.


message 37: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Aug 22, 2019 07:39AM) (new)

Elizabeth (Alaska) | 1044 comments Ian wrote: "NOT a nomination from me but a fictional book about railroads which is slightly different and may be worthy of consideration is:

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead"


This is not about railroads. This is about slaves escaping to the north.

(Or is it? A fantasy? why would anyone do that?)


message 38: by Nigeyb (last edited Aug 22, 2019 08:00AM) (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
Ian wrote: "I didn’t realise that ‘group read’ nominations had to be set/written (?) in the 20th century"

It's a recent clarification Ian - we are free and easy when it comes to buddy reads and the moderators choice though & have discussed both 19th and 21st century books in the recent past


Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "The Underground Railroad is not about railroads. This is about slaves escaping to the north."

Thanks Elizabeth


message 39: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 2642 comments Mod
From Nigeyb's review, Closely Watched/Observed Trains sounds great, and I also want to see the film, so I will confirm that one as my nomination - although I am very tempted by the various non-fiction titles which both I and others have mentioned.

Closely Observed Trains Closely Observed Trains by Bohumil Hrabal


message 40: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 2642 comments Mod
I'm realising that I think I may have read it in the past, as memories are starting to come back to me after reading the review - but I would be happy to read it again if so!


message 41: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb | 5199 comments Mod
Thanks Judy


Nominations so far....

Roman Clodia: Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Judy: Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal


Who else is nominating? Or thinking they might nominate?


message 42: by Val (last edited Aug 22, 2019 09:42AM) (new)

Val | 1342 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "This is not about railroads. This is about slaves escaping to the north.

(Or is it? A fantasy? why would anyone do that?)"


It is both about slaves escaping to the north and a fantasy. The historical 'railroad' is shown as a real underground railroad. The main difference (other than that) is that the fantasy railroad is built and operated by African- Americans, while the historical one was mainly operated by white abolitionists.


Elizabeth (Alaska) | 1044 comments Val wrote: "The historical 'railroad' is shown as a real underground railroad. "

Such a shame that anyone would pervert the story of people risking their lives to move the slaves along to freedom.


message 44: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments I think the author assumes that all his readers know about the history, and his characters are still risking their lives to help move the slaves to freedom.


Elizabeth (Alaska) | 1044 comments I'm not sure people do know that story except in the abstract. I'm not a reader of fantasy and this does appear to have appeal.


message 46: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments If people don't know that story, I would recommend reading a history book about it first. A fantasy or skewed history doesn't make sense unless one knows what it is based on
and yes, it has a lot of appeal.


message 47: by Ian (new)

Ian | 248 comments Yep, I thought that the book was very good. Made me sit up and give it some serious thought. Definitely a real railway tho.


Elizabeth (Alaska) | 1044 comments Most people don't know how and why the slaves got here in the first place.


message 49: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments Shocking!


message 50: by Val (new)

Val | 1342 comments I haven't read this book, but the description makes it sound as if it should have something to interest everyone, so my

Nomination: History of the World in 500 Railway Journeys by Sarah Baxter

Description: History is everywhere, and is never as complete as when it can be accessed on a part of history itself. The locomotive is one of the great steps in progress of civilisation that undoubtably connects us to land and history that was shaped by the machine itself. Although a basic form of railway, or rutway, did exist in Ancient Greek and Roman times - notably the ship trackway between Diolkos and the Isthmus of Corinth around 600 BC - it would take several thousand years before the first fare-paying passenger service was launched in the early nineteenth century. Some two hundred years on, it is possible to travel by train to some of the world's most remote and remarkable destinations, and track the many wonderful legacies of the Earth's extensive history - man-made and otherwise. From prehistoric rock formations to skyscraper cities, slow steam engines to high-speed bullet trains, let A History of the World in 500 Railway Journeys be your guide. Through its beautifully illustrated pages, and 500 awe-inspiring railway journeys, you can chart your own transcontinental itinerary through time. Chug through canyons, steam past ancient monuments, speed through cities, luxuriate in the railcars of presidents and queens, or make express connections between key historical moments or epic eras, A History of the World in 500 Railway Journeys has it all. A must-read for travellers, railfans and history buffs alike, offering inspiration and information in equal measure.


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