Michael is a broken man. He’s waiting for the 09.46 to Gloucester, so as to reach Crewe for 11.22: the platforms are long at Crewe, and he can walk easily into the path of a high-speed train to London. He’s planned it all: a net of tangerines (for when the refreshments trolley is cancelled), and a juice carton, full of neat whisky. To make identification swift, he has taped his last credit card to the inside of his shoe.
What Michael hasn’t factored in is a twelve-minute delay, which risks him missing his connection, and making new ones. He longs to silence the voices in his own head: ex-girlfriends, colleagues, and the memories from his schooldays, decades old. They all torment him. What Michael needs is somebody to listen.
A last, lonely journey becomes a lesson in the power of human connection, proving that no matter how bad things seem, it’s never too late to get back on track.
Journeys intersect. People find hope when and where they least expect it. A missed connection needn’t be a disaster: it could just save your life.
Published July 4th 2019 by Chatto & Windus (UK)
~ Review ~
When I was offered to read and review this book, it was theme of connections that appealed to me. I love the idea of twists of fate, chance encounters – however small- and the knock on effect they have. The optimist in me loves the idea of a small act of kindness changing someone’s day, week or life.
Train Man tells the story of Michael as he embarks on what he plans as his final journey. Michael feels he can’t go on, and the only solution is to take his own life. But as he travels towards his chosen destination, he is forced to reconsider thanks to small interactions he has on his way.
Michael’s story is pretty bleak as the reader is invited into his dark personal thoughts and memories. It took me a little while to get into, as the plot seems jumpy and fragmented to begin with as he skips between the now and his past. It’s a little tricky to keep track of until the style settles into itself and I became accustomed to it. But actually, it’s a pretty appropriate style for the character and conveys his jumbled and disturbed thought process perfectly. This isn’t a man who is thinking completely rationally and coherently after all.
After a couple of chapters I found myself really immersed in the story, and the host of characters introduced along the way. Don’t get me wrong – this is a pretty dark book at times with themes of sexual abuse, and isn’t always comfortable to read. But there’s humour and warmth in there too, with Andy Mulligan picking out characteristics and mannerisms representing every aspect of human nature from the cruel and selfish to the kind and compassionate, the ridiculously funny and silly to the down right heartbreak and sadness.
Train Man is a story of an innate need for human connection, and the surprising places it may come from if we open up. It doesn’t try and sugarcoat and romaticise – it’s brutal in its honesty and leaves the reader to ponder the resolution rather than spell it out for them at the end. A thought provoking book and one which I’ll remember and think about for quite a while.
(I read a copy courtesy of the publisher)