Trains and Lovers with a side of Irish Soda Bread

Title: Trains and Lovers (c) 2013 by Alexander McCall Smith

trains and loversMr. McCall Smith is one of those authors that I just felt as though I needed to read. Patrons often want to chat about their favorite authors and he is often one of them. I feel a bit sheepish saying that I’ve never read one of his books. He is probably best known for his The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. He has earned plenty of awards as an author and his books have as well. A quick visit to his website revealed that he is a man after my own heart. He has a recipe for Sponge Cake as a companion to his newest children’s book: The Great Cake Mystery.

Trains and Lovers originally caught my eye while it was still being cataloged. It was in the back office with the most charming cover. Not only that, but even the hard back is practically pocket size. Perfect for popping into my purse for waiting rooms or other on the fly reading opportunities. But once you open the cover, it’s obvious that the charm is more than skin deep!

Courtesy of amazon.com:

The rocking motion of the train as it speeds along, the sound of its wheels on the rails . . . There’s something special about this form of travel that makes for easy conversation, which is just what happens to the four strangers who meet in Trains and Lovers. As they journey by rail from Edinburgh to London, the four travelers pass the time by sharing tales of trains that have changed their lives. A young, keen-eyed Scotsman recounts how he turned a friendship with a female coworker into a romance by spotting an anachronistic train in an eighteenth-century painting. An Australian woman shares how her parents fell in love and spent their life together running a railroad siding in the remote Australian Outback. A middle-aged American patron of the arts sees two young men saying goodbye in a train station and recalls his own youthful crush on another man. And a young Englishman describes how exiting his train at the wrong station allowed him to meet an intriguing woman whom he impulsively invited to dinner—and into his life. Here is Alexander McCall Smith at his most enchanting, exploring the nature of love—and trains—in a collection of romantic, intertwined stories.

The 4 passengers, 3 men and a woman, all are of varying ages and backgrounds. Aside from sharing a mode of transportation, they appear to have little else in common. As their chatter turns to more intimate conversation, love appears to become a thread that unites each story. Much of this story appealled to me because it reminded me of times within the military. Often I would look around a section, gaggle (?), of fellow soldiers and think there is no other time in life that we would all find ourselves in each others company. We just came from such extremely different walks of life. But we worked together as a great team and shared some great stories.

Initially I began this story in the book form. I was immediately struck by the conversation feel of narration. I really felt as though I was sitting within that train with the other passengers, listening to their stories. Perhaps this was the intent and a special effort for this particular story. Perhaps this is the author’s writing style. I guess I’ll have to read another to find out. Either way, I also found a copy of this book available in our OneClick digital resource. It is read by Robert Ian MacKenzie, who is quite enjoyable. I did find it a bit more difficult to review an audio book as I couldn’t quickly flip back in reference. Luckily, my favorite quote came up early: “Journeys are not only about places, they are also about people, and it may be the people, rather than the places, that we remember.” Well isn’t that just life in a nut shell?

The book does have a bit of everything: heartbreak, unfailing love, and mystery. I found it enjoyable and entertaining. At one point Brown Winchester Soup is served with a side of Irish Soda Bread. Brown Winchester Soup just sounds fantastic, but in the hot, humid south the last thing I want right now is a rich beef soup. So instead we shall enjoy an Irish Soda Bread.

irish soda bread

2c flour
2t sugar
3/4t baking soda
3/4t kosher salt
2T cold butter
1/2c dried cherries
1T caraway seeds
3/4c buttermilk

Mix flour thru salt in a bowl. Work in cold butter with your hands. Add cherries and seeds. Mix in buttermilk. Roll or pat out dough into 1″ thickness. Cut into 2-1/2″ rounds. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes.

I loved them. Hubby ate them. Kids hated the caraway seeds. I think they made it! See what you think!

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