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on 24 November 2012
As a reader of nearly all of Alexander Mcall Smith's previous books I found this a departure from his usual style. However, very soon I found myself enjoying his usual skill of writing his characters with detail and compassion. The book contained stories told by four totally different people who met on a train journey. Each one had a beautiful and very different story to tell on their experiences of love. These were not told in the fashion of a romantic novel, but unfolded in a manner that was sympathetic to each person and compelled me to want to read more to find out what happened to each character in the end. It was quite an unusual book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.
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on 12 November 2012
This book is a slight departure from the other series, but no less enjoyable. Through the four riders in the train, we learn about the loves in their lives (or in her parents', in one case). The four stories are told through the riders from Scotland, U.K., Australia, and the United States. Some are personal and are shared with the others. One is through his remembrance of his own untold and unrealized love. Another is about her parents, spanning two generations.

As a reader of AMS's adult books, I've come to expect his wry humor. In that I think this is a departure, only in the sense that you don't see passages which make you burst out laughing or smile to yourself. But these stories are nonetheless touching and heartwarming, effectively weaving the different generations and their perspectives. I think this is more like "La's Orchestra Saves the World" than "44 Scotland Street."

It's still a vintage AMS novel.
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on 3 December 2012
It always amazes me how Alexander Mcall Smith writes his stories of real people, even in unusual circumstances they excist.
And even this was a strange way of people telling each other about their totally different lives, it gets to you and touches you.
The brain and heart of Mr. Mcall Smith must be full, because he writes so much and it almost always brings a smile to my heart.
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I love Alexander McCall Smith's books. I have been reading them ever since the first No 1 Ladies Detective Agency was published, and I generally enjoy every book he produces, and he produces a lot of books. This one is not one of my favourites, it has to be said. It is sweet enough, telling the story of four random strangers who meet on a long train journey and begin to chat, sharing their stories about how love has affected them in greater and lesser ways. The premise was intriguing and I knew McCall Smith could handle this material in a way that I wouldn't find schmaltzy or irritating, and he did that, but I did find the stories rather clumsily put together. There seems to be a lack of finesse here, which is usually present in spades in his other work. I felt I had missed something here though, and reread several sections in case I'd missed some connection through inattentive reading. I hadn't.

The other thing I missed was McCall Smith's delightful sense of humour. Even in the saddest, most emotionally touching parts of his other books, there is a deftness of touch with humour which lifts the stories out of the ordinary and makes them special. That really wasn't in evidence here.

I felt like there could have been a fantastic novel here, but what we got instead was a rather rushed, alright novella.
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VINE VOICEon 28 December 2012
The main feature of all McCall Smith's fiction is his belief in the fundamental decency of most people, borne out again in this heart-warming collection of stories, some private, some shared with the others, of four strangers on the Edinburgh to London train. Geographically, they cover the planet, from the fine art world of London and Edinburgh familiar to readers from his other books, to the Maine countryside and the Australian outback. I particularly enjoyed the story of the young Scot, leaving these shores for Australia in 1946, which bought back my own childhood memories of sailing from Southampton in 1947. As it would be in life, several of these tales are complete, others are unresolved, leaving us to wonder what happened next.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 September 2013
Trains and Lovers is a stand-alone novel by popular Scottish author, Alexander McCall Smith. This novel takes the reader on a train journey where any boredom is dispelled by the stories that four strangers in a railway carriage relate, stories that involve trains (both real and of the art variety) and lovers (variously realised, possibly dangerous and unrequited). McCall Smith gives us four very different characters and chooses a novel way of telling four discrete tales. As always, McCall Smith offers up gentle philosophy as he touches on subjects as diverse as modern-day connectedness and loneliness; identity theft; issues of trust and how powerful and persistent the seeds of doubt, once sown, can be; the comparison of communication today with the bygone era (emails and texts versus telegrams and pen friends); and the concept of moral luck. McCall Smith's prose is charming and evocative: "...wonderful, exotic languages including one that had clicks and whistles in it...It's called !Kung. And it has an exclamation mark in front of it. Imagine talking !English or !French with an exclamation mark. It was lovely to listen to - rather like the sound of the wind in the reeds, or a pair of exotic birds talking to one another on the branch of a tree." And "There are many ways of falling off the high moral ground you've carefully built up for yourself. Moral ground is like that - slippery at the edges." Charming, humorous and insightful.
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on 24 December 2012
I am an unashamed Alexander McCall Smith fan. His capacity to remind us - gently always - that love and kindness are all that matter in getting us through our allotted span is unequaled. His writing is beautifully structured. and his consistent belief in the innate decency of ordinary people shines through as an antidote to today's endemic cynicism and schadenfreude.
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on 16 July 2013
I love Alexander McCall-Smith's Botswana stories, but I've never been smitten by his Scottish tales. This one is about four strangers who meet round a table on the train from Edinburgh to London (a journey I know well). But the way one character launches into the baring of his soul just isn't believable. If he wasn't famous, he'd be urged to 'show not tell'. Sorry. I know others will love it. But I don't.
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on 18 November 2014
I think everybody has met at least one person on a train and this is a story of four people who do just that; thrown together by chance and circumstance.

For myself I met Carole on a much-delayed cross-country train as we were both going home for the weekend (from different universities). We talked, made friends, swapped contact details and stayed in in contact. Every year we exchange Christmas cards and news; she has her life and I have mine. A story that uses this has its central conceit is not an original idea – one of my favourite films is Before Sunrise in which two characters doing just that – but it is a comforting one.

In this book you are presented with four very different versions of love in the four stories that Kay, Hugh, Andrew, and David tell each other. Or at least the versions of their “real” love stories that they choose to tell.
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on 20 September 2014
Four short stories joined together and told by four strangers on a train journey. Unlikely, yes, that people would open up like this but that didn't matter to me. I found it all very insightful and bookmarked lots of pages to discuss at book club. I loved the atmosphere of the whole book and found the characters stories moving and realistic. Loved it!
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