Railway Confessions- A Collection of Short Stories, by Carolyn Moncel


I find that as a means of travel nothing else feels as secure and protecting as going by train. In this cosy world, cocooned together, often closely facing each other, the train is a likely place for complete strangers to find themselves in conversation. For a variety of reasons this is often especially true on a long journey, rather than on the short familiar commute. From time to time this dialogue, seemingly detached from our real lives, may even become a confession.
Of course we need a connection to break the silence, a reason to allow our natural reserve to fall. Morcel works these variously likely connections to build interesting conversations. We have an overheard phone conversation in a common, not locally spoken, language, another time a baby and the strings it pulls between two women. Then we have worries about planned meetings, the constant danger of delays, or perhaps about a disturbing passenger just far enough away to be talked about. The triggers are many. From these incidents Morcel builds story, moulds characters, plays with our expectations, drawing on our sometime need to talk to someone, anyone. The freedom of conversing with those that will never cross our paths again, or so we assume, can be compelling. The relief in bouncing our guilty secrets, our fears, our concerns off those whose judgement is unlikely to be prejudice to our future can so easily melt away our guards.
And what better place to read Morcel’s “observational” short stories than on a train as it speeds across some wide open countryside between distant cities. Perhaps we will read, have a snooze and wake to find an excuse, a need, to talk to the fascinating other sitting just in front, a narrow leg space away. Beware, that friendly smile may belong to Carolyn Moncel, and she might tell! There is only one problem with this compelling read, it is far too short. Morcell writes very well, pulling one in to quietly listen to a train’s intimate strangers.



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