Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Night Train to Lisbon

     Emily Grayson. Night Train to Lisbon (2004) It’s 1936. Carson Weatherell, daughter of a well-to-do Connecticut family, meets and falls in love with Alec Breve, a Cambridge physics student also travelling on the Paris-Lisbon train. They embark on an intense affair, while the war clouds gather. Carson’s Uncle Lawrence (married to her Aunt Jane) tells Carson that Alec is a member of pro-Fascist group, the Watchmen, suspected of passing secrets to the Germans. He asks her to tell him everything she knows.
     She returns home, and tries to forget Alec, who shows up when she finally sends him a Dear John letter. Pressed, she tells him what Lawrence told her, Alec denies it, they go to London, where his foster mother tries to pull some strings, but Alec is arrested anyway. Carson goes to Cambridge to see his friends and discovers that one of them has framed Alec. So Alec is set free, they marry and live happily ever after. Oh yes, turns out that Carson is Jane’s daughter, conceived during WW1 before Jane and Lawrence married, and raised by Phillippa (Jane's sister) because her marriage was sterile.
     The story focusses on Carson’s feelings. The plot is barely enough for a medium length short story, but it isn’t the point. It’s Carson’s self-discovery and increasing self-confidence that matters. Sometimes, Grayson’s narration of Carson’s dialogues with herself sounds more like a psych lecture than a story. The inter-war years setting helps plausibility, but as with any fantasy-love Romance, the facts of the setting don’t matter much, really, and there are few errors. In the Epilogue, “Carson and Alec are married at the Old Bailey”, a hilarious error. I suppose Grayson assumed that since the Old Bailey is a court house, one may be married there. In the USA, yes, but not in the UK. The Brits talk like Americans, too.
     We see everything from Carson’s point of view. That’s the most plausible part of the book, as she is a naive and under-educated All-American girl. Her dialogues with herself are plausible, and she comes across as an intelligent and strong-willed woman. No wonder Alec falls in love with her. I read the book over about a month, in smallish chunks. I bought it because the key opening scenes are set on a train, and that was quite well done. I wouldn’t have read it otherwise. It’s above average as a Romance. **

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