I have discovered a new favourite writer - even though I loved The Lost Life I was still a little hesitant about reading some of Carroll's earlier novels - I wasn't quite sure that a story about an Australian suburb in the 1950's would excite me too much - but I was wrong!
The Art Of The Engine Driver felt seamless to me - the writing, the story and the characters just flowed. I didn't want the story to end but at the same time I just couldn't stop reading it.
The story begins with a family, Vic, Rita and Michael, walking down their street to attend an engagement party for a neighbour. As they walk we learn about their past and what has led them to this suburb at this time. We learn about Vic's passion for his job as a train driver and how he and Rita first met and fell in love. We also hear about Vic's serious drinking problem and how that is impacting on his relationship with both Rita and Michael and, as the story unfolds, we learn about a secret that Vic is keeping from his employers.
As the family walk down the street and pass each house the story of the people in that house is told and reflected upon so that by the time the family reach the party we have a really clear picture of the neighbourhood - and some of the tensions that will be evident at the party.
This suburban story is happening at the same time as a train journey from Melbourne to Sydney - a journey that will correspond with the events at the party as the story goes on.
I know it sounds quite simple - and in some ways it is - but the storytelling is divine and the characterisation perfect. I felt for all of these characters, loved some and hated others - but they all evoked a reaction from me.
The Art Of The Engine Driver is the first book in a trilogy and I will certainly be reading the other two very soon.