Reviews for Trains and Lovers

Book News Reviews
Inspired by a love of trains and the nature of love, a series of intertwined romantic tales follows the experiences of four strangers traveling from Edinburgh to London who entertain each other with reminiscences about how trains have changed their lives. By the best-selling author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

Booklist Reviews 2013 May #2
The latest from McCall Smith, Scotland's contemporary answer to Anthony Trollope, is a stand-alone novel, set on the train from Edinburgh to London. Unfortunately, the novel is a rare misfire for McCall Smith, the architect of the "everyone brings problems to one place" frame used to such wonderful effect in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series and in the elegantly interlocking stories in the 44 Scotland Street and Corduroy Mansions series. The frame here has four people in one train compartment: three men (from Scotland, the U.S., and England) and one woman (from Western Australia) settle in to tell each other tales of their past loves. It would take a derrick to suspend this I beam of disbelief, beginning with the startling fact that these twenty-first-century travelers occupy the entire journey by taking turns talking--there's not an iPad in sight. Those who expect the sort of assignations promised by the cover art will be disappointed; there's not even any flirting. Still, if readers can ignore the screeching narrative wheels, there are the usual rewards to reading McCall Smith, including his deft descriptions of landscape and the physical characteristics of his characters--and, of course, his wise and witty reflections on love and luck. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 May #1
Four strangers sharing a railway carriage from Edinburgh to London recall their very different experiences of love in this stand-alone from McCall Smith (Unusual Uses for Olive Oil, 2012, etc.). Andrew, a Scot en route to a new job, begins by telling of his love for Hermione, who served with him as an intern at an auction house, and its principal obstacle: her wealthy, imperious father, an alpha male who brooks no opposition. In response, Andrew's fellow passenger David, an American academic, recalls a story too intimate for him to share aloud: his unconsummated love many years ago for Bruce, a Princeton math professor's son whom he saw only during his annual vacations. Kay, an Australian who lives in Perth, recounts the romance between her parents, a Scot who settled in the Outback to manage the remote railroad station of Hope Springs and the pen pal whom he persuaded during a brief trip to Sydney to follow him back to a posting far from anything she'd ever known. Trains also play a pivotal role in the story of Hugh, who absent-mindedly disembarks at the wrong station in Gloucestershire and ends up in a relationship with Jenny. All goes well until a former boyfriend warns Hugh that Jenny is not what she seems to be--a possibility Hugh struggles to deal with. The interplay among the four stories is mostly limited to aphorisms like "[l]oving the good thing we do in our lives" and "[e]verything is possible in love." A warmhearted, understated serving of comfort food. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 May #2

The human yearning for love--"to give it and to receive it in that familiar battle that all of us fight with loneliness"--is at the heart of McCall Smith's wistful stand-alone novel, as four strangers on an Edinburgh-to-London rail journey share stories of romance both thwarted and fulfilled. Art history student Andrew tells how he fell for the daughter of a disapproving business magnate. Hugh thinks his schoolteacher girlfriend might have an assumed identity. David recalls his unrequited affection for another man during summers spent in rural Maine. And in the book's most affecting tale, Kay recounts her Scottish father's emigration to the desolate Australian outback and pen pal courtship of her mother. VERDICT Subtle wit, leisurely pacing, copious references to W.H. Auden--the hallmarks of McCall Smith's storytelling are in full force here, as is his penchant for quiet vignettes. That's too bad, because the other story lines are less compelling than the evocative Australian scenes, which merit a full book of their own. Nonetheless, these interludes will provide the author's fans with another soothing literary sojourn. [See Prepub Alert, 11/30/12.]--Annabel Mortensen, Skokie P.L., IL

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