Over the last weekend I did one of the things I like best…
…which is to take a ride on a train.
It is a known fact that I can sleep anywhere, although I can’t just eat anything. I cannot imagine that the catering on a UK train can be anywhere near as good as having a bento box on a Japanese bullet train (I still have fond memories from our trip in 2002), so I opted for my default lunch on the go: a Pret sandwich, crisps and fruit salad.
London to Exeter takes around two hours and in fact the ride is very comfortable. On such a weekend, with Mother’s Day on the Sunday and with some time to sit and read, the options are Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train or Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday.
I enjoyed Swift’s Last Orders very much and his latest offering was highly recommended in The Week. Coming across a review in The Independent and also having read the first few pages on Amazon, I wasn’t so sure. Two things put me off i.e. the review likening it to ‘Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, only with better sex’ and the fact that the character Paul Sheringham dies in a car accident (Paul is a character and not a hero because he cheats on his fiancée).
On Chesil Beach was painful to read because I find it so frustrating to deal with people who will not say what they have to say then live their entire life in regret. As for upper class men dying in car accidents, this is the reason I could not move beyond series 1 of Downton Abbey. I am sure they replaced Cousin Matthew but I didn’t want to know, because Cousin Matthew was in my eyes the perfect match for Lady Mary.
The Girl on the Train is a superb read, and not only in the thriller and whodunnit sense. What it describes very well is the emptiness we all feel at some point in our lives, and here it is voiced through the diary entries of Rachel, Megan and Anna. The men they are involved with do speak, but the words are filtered through the emotionally-charged sentences of these three women.
At one point Megan says: So, I’m going to see a therapist! Which could be weird, but it could be a laugh, too. I’ve always thought that it might be fun to be Catholic, to be able to go to the confessional and unburden yourself and have someone tell you that they forgive you, to take all the sin away, wipe the slate clean.
The therapist advises Megan to love herself but we see that no matter how much you love yourself (and the consequences of loving yourself always causes hurt to someone else) this cannot be the answer.
The point is that even in a confessional we cannot depend on another person forgiving our sins. Humans? We are all in the same boat, sinking into deeper waters. The God who designed and made us is the only one who can forgive and rescue us.
As the story unravels you get an idea that someone is going to be murdered. When that happens, I race through the pages in delicious anticipation of whether I could work out who the perpetrator was and why. Fortunately the ending was not long and drawn-out as the author keeps the same even pace throughout the book, much like the pace of the evocative train journeys she describes so well.
Talking of delicious anticipation, dinner on Saturday night was at The Five Bells Inn and on Sunday we had a light lunch, put together by Junior 2, before leaving Devon.
The girl on the train will soon be the girl on the plane, as I head for Seoul over the Easter holidays. More posts on travelling around Seoul and Jeju Island will follow at the end of the March and the beginning of April. In the meantime there is a lot of what I call ‘admin work’ to complete. Nothing very thrilling and not much of a whodunnit because, you know, I am the one who needs to do it at the end of the day.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, ISBN 978-0857522313
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift, ISBN 978-1471155239