I am deviating from the uncanny path for one occasion to follow a more transient journey...
The concept linking the three tales featured is simple. Three couples taking the same train from Paris to Geneva reveal intimate details about their lives to their companioned fellow passengers under the very human presumption they will be ships that pass in the night.
Each tale represents one stage in the four-hour journey from Paris to Lyon and on to Geneva itself. It is a simple, but clever, conceit, adding a present tense imperative to the narration.
‘My Brother’s Keeper (Paris 20:00-22:00)’ is the best of the three. Two confessions of unintended consequences at first intimate the possibility both characters have committed the worst of crimes until their mutual guilt bonds them, revealing otherwise. What could so easily have been too contrived to be credible is rescued by the emotional authenticity played out.
In ‘A Choice In The Matter (Lyon 22:00-23:00)’ a straight-laced mother who’s reached her middle years finds herself next to a cool young lesbian and her baby daughter. The older woman has only sons and wants a girl – just like her – before it’s too late. An intriguing scene toward the end features the older woman torn as the younger offers her her child to briefly look after while she leaves to buy a sandwich. It is almost painful to observe the older woman pondering the illicit opportunity this suddenly gives her.
In ‘Pretty Prison (Geneva 23:00-24:00)’ a woman on the brink of divorce, harbouring a recurring dream, meets an older man experienced in the art of the casual affair. A doctor, he also casually draws away the veil – much to her initial anger - revealing to herself how she truly feels about her cheating husband. It is easy to dislike her infuriating passenger as much as she, but Moncel ensures a catharsis of sorts has taken place.
There is much warmth in the narrative voice across the three tales. This is usually only achieved by an author drawing upon their own experience. An apparent explanatory ‘interview’ at the end (not something I personally care for) reveals the last was, in fact, autobiographical; one consequence, Moncel claims, of being someone complete strangers find easy to approach on parallel journeys she herself had made.
Thankfully, there is honesty in her use of language raising the bar to a grittier level, and rather above, what might otherwise have been horribly termed ‘chick-lit.’
Barring the occasional typo, (pleasingly almost absent in the first tale) the layout is also clear and technically very sound.
This - Moncel’s third release - shows real heart with no trace of false sentiment. Some of these characters are ongoing, but I also hope she returns to other journeys she has made, perhaps introducing a darker tone for those of us who are also used to life’s transient encounters.