Book Review: The London Train by Tessa Hadley

There is little doubt, if not any, that Tessa Hadley is a good writer. By all means, The London Train is well written book, and perhaps the most unique thing is an interconnection just when you thought the book was done and dusted.

The book focuses on the death of parents and its impact on two very different adults, who at one point have an affair with each other, and then go about their lives. The book begins with a mother’s death and follows events of her son, Paul’s life. He comes off as unemotional, as if playing the role of a father and a husband out of pure societal pressure. His reactions to most things, save for when the neighbour decides to cut trees that run along common trajectory, are muted. This unemotional, muted, boring characteristic runs in Cora, whose story is narrated later on in the book.

Cora and Paul have an affair during different time-lines, (Cora’s story is set before Paul’s) and I still haven’t understood how exactly they met and went on their separate ways. The whole involvement comes off bland, like white rice on a plate. The most spicy things to write about are affairs, their deep emotional impact and yet, Hadley’s novel merely paints the entire thing as a sapless episode.

Points for writing, but none for plot.


Book Review: The Virgins by Pamela Erens

Passionate people have a passionate way of doing things, including life and death. Erens’ book revolves around an inter-racial romantic relationship between Seung Jung, a son of Korean immigrants, who has come to study at Auburn Academy on merit and Aviva Rossner, a Jewish girl who tends to be on the rebel side.

Narrated by a rejected suitor, Bruce Bennet Jones, the book takes us through the relationship of Jung and Rossner, which eventually leads to Jung’s death. The death was revealed a little too early in the book, and since the revelation I read the book waiting for death to come, the rest being muted to the side.

Yet, the novel is beautifully written-Bennet’s underlying jealousy as he narrates the story, Jung’s confused thoughts as he battles between the conservative Korean mindset of his parents and his own urges and of course, Rossner’s wanting to be ready for something she wasn’t. The book is perhaps not the best of the coming of age genre, but tells us a dark and dangerous story nonetheless.