Where The Trains Turn by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen


Genre: Fiction
Synopsis: Emma Nightingale prefers to remain grounded in reality as much as possible. Yet she’s willing to indulge her nine year-old son Rupert’s fascination with trains, as it brings him closer to his father, Gunnar, from whom she is separated. Once a month, Gunnar and Rupert venture out to follow the rails and watch the trains pass. Their trips have been pleasant, if uneventful, until one afternoon Rupert returns in tears. “The train tried to kill us,” he tells her. Rupert’s terror strikes Emma as merely the product of an overactive imagination. After all, his fears could not be based in reality, could they?


Review: Where The Trains Turn is written from the perspective of Rupert's mother, Emma, a woman who has little or no tolerance for anything that encourages the imagination or creative mind. This short novel documents the progression of her son through life, and the effects of imagination on his well-being... or does it? An extremely unusual novel, it's very difficult to review or to talk about the characters without spoiling anything, as it is much more the experience of how events unfold, than the events themselves, that make this a story worth reading.

I found it impossible to relate to the mother, and disliked her for a good portion of the early novel, but have to admit that I did come to later understand, if not like her towards the middle and end. Rupert is a very easy character to like, and even if the narrative at times drags and may leave the reader unsure where it is all going, the question of Rupert's fate and the nature of the trains that run outside their timetables are compelling enough to pull you forward - and it is worth it.

The end of the novel is what it is all about - while there is more than one twist that caught me by surprise throughout the story, the ending was utterly unexpected, superbly written (allowing for the translation to English from Finnish) and absolutely makes it worth reading. Part of me would have liked to read a full novel, but such is the nature of the story, I think, that it would only work as a short.

Very unusual.

Rating: 4/5

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