Garebear, November 6, 2014 (view all comments by Garebear)
Can a novel pose too many questions? Will you feel unfulfilled if it answers essentially none of them? Is Mundus, a dreary, bookish fifty-something high school teacher of dead languages, how the author sees himself? Does he hide behind the concept, belabored in the book, that others see us differently than we see ourselves? Without spoiling the plot, who is the Portuguese woman on the bridge in Bern? What is the allegorical significance of her writing a phone number on Mundus’s forehead in the driving rain? Will Mundus ever call it? Come to think of it, did he ever transcribe it? Is showing up for class soaking wet with a phone number inked on his forehead any reason for walking out of the school he has taught in for 38 years? Liberated by a Portuguese woman (will he ever get laid by her?), is a Portuguese book store in Bern, Switzerland, the obvious place to go? And the next woman, in the bookstore, dwelling fondly on a book but finally deciding not to take, that has to be a cosmic sign that this is the book he needs, isn’t it? Well ISN’T IT? Can the author of the mysterious book ask as many questions as Pascal Mercier? Can a socially inept caterpillar really blossom into a butterfly by catching a train to Lisbon and piecing together the life of the dead author? When you read Night Train to Lisbon, will you look forward to the passages from the mysterious book by the emotionally masochistic author (heralded by italic typeface) with rapt anticipation or outright dread? The question you need to ask yourself before picking up this book is: can I deal with all these questions, or will it drive me out of my ****ing mind?
Milo King, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Milo King)
Complex, atmospheric, intellectual, an intriguing protagonist and many interesting supporting players- a novel that takes some extra effort, but that effort is amply rewarded.
Rose G Heuser, January 5, 2012 (view all comments by Rose G Heuser)
I picked up this book prior to getting on a plane and couldn't put it down. I haven't found a book this well written since Elegance of a Hedgehog. It is a beautiful story and incredibly thought provoking. This was the best book that I read in 2011.
Catherine Evans, January 3, 2012 (view all comments by Catherine Evans)
I picked this book up in the Powell's at PDX, and was intrigued after reading just the first paragraph. I loved the psychological development of the main character and how seemingly chance events end up changing his entire life.
Ariel Valladares, January 30, 2011 (view all comments by Ariel Valladares)
One of the best books I've ever read, and one that I will read again and again. It is beautifully written and an amazing story that grabs your attention immediately and will not let it go. The reader travels with Mundus on his fascinating journey and doesn't want it to end.
Grove Press -
The story of a dependable, rather boring classic-languages professor at a Swiss lycée. Mundus, as he is called, seems to thrive on predictability. One rainy morning on his way to the school he encounters a woman possibly considering suicide. He intercedes, and they interact for a short while before she slips away. All he knows is that she is Portuguese and that she has written a phone number on his forehead. This tips his life so far beyond normalcy that he leaves school, takes a crash course in Portuguese, and discovers a book by a Portuguese doctor, Prado, that incites him to impulsively go to Lisbon to see if he can find the man. Far-fetched? Yes, and most of the people he meets, both along the way and in Lisbon, are so friendly and accommodating that the story can be unbelievable. But Mercier's writing and characters drew me in so much that I overlooked all the unrealities and just enjoyed the adventure that Mundus embarked on.
Prado comes up against Salazar's dictatorship and the atrocities of that time in Portuguese history, and this backdrop informs much of the action that takes place while Mundus is looking for the doctor and meeting the man's family and peers. Prado's philosophical writings are found throughout the book, as well as the memories of the tyranny of Salazar, making this a thoughtful, engaging, and often heartbreaking novel.
From its first memorable passages to the complex tale that emerges, Night Train to Lisbon never relents in its existential telling of what life can be. A soulful look into the heart of what nourishes you; a compelling and beautiful book to savor.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Evoking shades of Casablanca, Grayson (Waterloo Station) spins a tale of spycraft and love in this lightweight period novel. In the summer of 1936, sheltered, lovely Carson Weatherell, privileged daughter of wealthy Connecticut parents, sets off on a European tour with her Aunt Jane and Jane's husband, Lawrence, a British intelligence officer. On the train from Paris to Lisbon, Carson meets the eye of dashing Alec Breve, a young British physicist who introduces the girl to the world of the intellect as well as the heart. Trouble is brewing, however, and Carson grows up in a hurry when her uncle confronts her with evidence that Alec is a spy for the Germans. She can't deny the suspicions planted by this news, but neither can she completely believe it. At first she is determined to have nothing further to do with Alec, but she must face him when he appears at her home. Reunited, they decide to return to England and clear Alec's name. But with war in the air, will they be believed? Grayson's handling of young love is touching, if rather prissy — 'the train continued on along its tracks, unaware that on the platform at its very end, a young American girl — no, a young American woman — was falling in love' — but finely drawn characters are given too little to do in what could've been a more substantial story, given longer treatment. Agent, Peter Matson.(May) Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Page des libraires (France),
"One of the great European novels of the past few years."
by The Oregonian,
"For me, this beautiful book, philosophical inquiry included, lit a fuse that snaked its way into my consciousness, sending out sparklers of light that made me feel more alive, more awake, for days. I hated to see it come to an end. What more can one ask?"
by Seattle Times,
"The text of Amadeu's writing is filled not with mere nuggets of wisdom but with a mother lode of insight, introspection and an honest, self-conscious person's illuminations of all the dark corners of his own soul."
by Die Welt (Germany),
"One reads this book almost breathlessly, can hardly put it down....A handbook for the soul, intellect, and heart."
by Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company,
"Night Train to Lisbon taps into some of the oldest veins of story, the primal ones of night journeys, of a distant land, of being stuck in-place, and yet adrift and confused....I'm not sure how much this book might teach any of us how to live...but it has helped remind this reader of what it is to really read."
by Tages-Anzeiger (Switzerland),
"A book in which poetry and philosophy are intimately intertwined."
Raimund Gregorius teaches classical languages at a Swiss lycée, and lives a life governed by routine. One day, a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman inspires him to question his life—and leads him to an extraordinary book that will open the possibility of changing it. Inspired by the words of Amadeu de Prado, a doctor whose intelligence and magnetism left a mark on everyone who met him and whose principles led him into a confrontation with Salazars dictatorship, Gergorius boards a train to Lisbon. As Gregorius becomes fascinated with unlocking the mystery of who Prado was, an extraordinary tale unfolds.
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