Helping people find books to read, I often find something for myself. This happened again a couple of weeks ago. I was showing a reader where the Alexander McCall Smith books are shelved, telling her how most part of series, when I spotted a book I did not know, Trains and Lovers: A Novel. It is not in a series and had somehow eluded me. When the reader did not take it, I did.
Does McCall Smith have an infinite reserve of characters in a file, or has he met many people on whom he can base characters? He never seems at a loss to shape new men, women, children, and even dogs. In Trains and Lovers, he creates three men and one woman who meet on a long train ride from Scotland to England. One is leaving Scotland, while another is going home to England. The others are an American and an Australian. The four begin to talk, and three tell love stories.
Trains and Lovers is definitely a gentle read, just what McCall Smith fans expect. Still, the author surprises us with how the stories develop and leaves us with questions. Is love any less real for never being spoken or ending too soon? When should we trust our feelings of love? Are we changed by love?
Like most McCall Smith books, Trains and Lovers can easily be a discussion book. Now is a good time to read. Libraries should display copies around Valentine's Day.
McCall Smith, Alexander. Trains and Lovers: A Novel. Pantheon Books, 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780307908544.