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Reviewed by Amanda Rofe for Readers' Favorite
Take the Late Train by Jack Messenger is a novel based on the life of Stephen Ketley, a professor whose marriage begins to fray at the seams on his tenth wedding anniversary. Problems with his wife's infidelity is only one of a number of issues that plague him. He is losing weight but doesn't know why, he is estranged from his sister, his flamboyant mother is self-medicating with alcohol, and his stepdaughter is in crisis about her career options. While juggling problems of the present, including a job promotion which he is slightly ambivalent about, Stephen reminisces about the past. More specifically, the idyllic summer he spent in Italy with Giuliana, his first love. She increasingly haunts his thoughts and he wonders if he made a mistake in not pursuing their relationship further.
This is an intelligently and thoughtfully written story about how the choices we make affect our lives. Stephen, the main character, is a university lecturer and a literary man. It is, therefore, no coincidence that the novel is strewn with literary allusions. Some of these I noted and I am fairly certain there were some I missed. However, I would happily go back and read this book again to seek them out. After the first few pages, I was confident that Jack Messenger was going to deliver a good novel. This enabled me to relax and allow the drama to unfold. There were some things left unsaid in this book and the reader was allowed to wonder what might have been. This plot was skilfully executed and added to a very satisfying story line.