cover image The London Train

The London Train

Tessa Hadley, Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-201183-1

Hadley's fourth novel (after The Master Bedroom) is at once a melancholy and delightful story about Paul, a poet and father of three going through a midlife crisis in a small town outside of Cardiff, Wales, and Cora, a woman from his past whose impact on his life is minimal, and yet, for the reader, pivotal. What begins as an argument with a neighbor spirals into a domestic meltdown that sends Paul storming out and traveling to London to find Pia, his daughter from a former marriage, who, as it turns out, is pregnant, has dropped out of school, and is living in an illegal flat with her boyfriend. Paul, unsure how he should act, teeters back and forth from father figure to thrilled participant in her chaotic existence. Cora, on the other hand, has taken refuge from London in her recently deceased parents' house in Cardiff after separating from her husband and now enjoys the simplicity and the quiet of the country. Her narrative fleshes out the connection she has to Paul and reveals him to be a much weaker man than he'd like to acknowledge while simultaneously offering a smart take on starting over. Hadley's twin narratives are perfectly tuned and heavy with lacerating observations about the way fate works. (June)