The London Train, By Tessa Hadley

 

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Tessa Hadley is a writer whose antennae are almost indecently attuned to the interior static of private lives. Her latest novel is built around two early-middle aged lovers, Paul and Cora, whose narratives occupy different parts of the book, but cross tracks in the second half.

Paul, an academic living in rural south Wales, has just lost his mother. Cora has separated from her husband and returned to her childhood home. The story of their close encounter on the Paddington train is a masterly portrait of a thwarted affair.

Within the fragile happiness of her new existence, Cora steps out of herself to become a different person, like a manuscript illumination, "a naked female with little white, forked, vegetable legs, emblematic of the vanity of earthly delights."

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