I think I said it all when I reviewed The Long Weekend on Goodreads and Amazon last year really, but I don’t think there’s any harm in saying it again. There are a few kinds of novels I always know I’ll enjoy. With a small few exceptions, I usually enjoy dual-time narratives, so long as the links aren’t too clunky. And I enjoy books set in exotic places – unless the stories are a disappointment. Then there are the books – think of the late Maeve Binchy – where you take one location and introduce a cast of characters, all with their own stories, each of which is satisfyingly concluded by the end of the book. This book ticks all the boxes, and in wonderful style – set before, during and after a trip of a lifetime on the Orient Express, with a fascinating cast of characters.
We have the earlier story of Adele, who escapes her routine life and routine marriage by opening an art gallery in the annex of her home with the support of an enigmatic stranger she meets at an auction. Her granddaughter Imogen is making the trip to Italy to escape a difficult relationship and to collect a painting she is to be given for her birthday. Riley is an aging and successful photographer, who makes the trip regularly with the woman he has long loved at a distance. Archie and Emmie, both with recent tragedy in their lives, have been brought together by a dating website for the trip. Stephanie has recently moved in with Simon, and is building a relationship with him and his two teenage children: together on the train, their problems threaten to ruin the trip.
Veronica Henry again picks up all the threads, and weaves them into a wonderful story with a magical setting that absolutely enthralls. I read it in one sitting, totally escaping from reality and really not wanting it to end – but being thoroughly satisfied when it does. The last time I described a Veronica Henry book I drew comparisons with Maeve Binchy – this one reminded me of a Richard Curtis film, and left me with the same warm fuzzy feeling. Fabulous stuff – if you have a romantic bone anywhere in your body, and enjoy a well told story, you must read this one.
Veronica Henry began her working life as a production secretary on The Archers, moving on to Central Television as a script editor on series including Crossroads and Boon. She left to have her first child in 1990 and became a scriptwriter, writing hundreds of hours of broadcast television for Heartbeat, Doctors and Holby City amongst others. Her first novel was (the wonderful) Honeycote, published in 2002, and A Night on the Orient Express is her eleventh novel. She lives in North Devon with her husband and three sons.