Four strangers sharing a railway carriage from Edinburgh to London recall their very different experiences of love in this stand-alone from McCall Smith (Unusual Uses for Olive Oil, 2012, etc.).
Andrew, a Scot en route to a new job, begins by telling of his love for Hermione, who served with him as an intern at an auction house, and its principal obstacle: her wealthy, imperious father, an alpha male who brooks no opposition. In response, Andrew’s fellow passenger David, an American academic, recalls a story too intimate for him to share aloud: his unconsummated love many years ago for Bruce, a Princeton math professor’s son whom he saw only during his annual vacations. Kay, an Australian who lives in Perth, recounts the romance between her parents, a Scot who settled in the Outback to manage the remote railroad station of Hope Springs and the pen pal whom he persuaded during a brief trip to Sydney to follow him back to a posting far from anything she’d ever known. Trains also play a pivotal role in the story of Hugh, who absent-mindedly disembarks at the wrong station in Gloucestershire and ends up in a relationship with Jenny. All goes well until a former boyfriend warns Hugh that Jenny is not what she seems to be—a possibility Hugh struggles to deal with. The interplay among the four stories is mostly limited to aphorisms like “[l]oving others...is the good thing we do in our lives” and “[e]verything is possible in love.”
A warmhearted, understated serving of comfort food.