The Taxi Queue by Janet Davey
|The Taxi Queue by Janet Davey|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Abe Rivers meets Richard Epworth by chance at Paddington Station...and the repercussions spread beyond their own very different reactions to the encounter. A portrait of ordinary lives and small twists of fate, elegantly told.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: June 2007|
|Publisher: Chatto and Windus|
London is becoming snow-bound and the taxi queue outside Paddington Station stretches way beyond the limits of the station canopy. Twenty-something Abe Rivers is returning from his reverse-commute to Reading and, loving the snow, is set on walking home from Paddington when something makes him take a second look at the man at the end of the queue.
That man is Richard Epworth: forty-year-old pragmatist with a wife, two daughters and membership of an evangelist Church.
They share a taxi and then the night and their worlds... don't collide... but merely begin to mingle a little
For the youthful Rivers life is still fluid, anything is possible and the ships that pass in the night, simply sail on. For the solid Epworth, the past lurches up with unresolved questions while the present has to be maintained.
Through the repercussions of this chance meeting we meet other characters concentric to the two men: Abe's younger sister, her illegal immigrant boyfriend, Richard's wife and their co-worshippers, the Rivers' mother Gloria and (in memory) their absent father Neil. We wander through the minutiae of their current lives and the related memories of their childhood experiences.
This is not a book for those who love action. It is a gentle read, reminiscent of the novels Dirk Bogarde, where the focus is on how people relate not just to each other but to themselves. The fantasies we spin, the regrets we secrete away and think we've moved on from.
It is a story about love and the lies we tell ourselves, but fail to believe: always somehow coming back to the truth. There is a quotation from the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead which foretells that on the day of judgement when we give an account of our lives, the good or ill of the life will not determine our fate, but rather the truthfulness of the account. The truth: that which we seldom tell, but leave wrapped in kindnesses or excuses or silence.
It tells of how we look at others and try to create reasons for their actions, or inactions, as Vivienne watches her distracted husband and wonders about a possible secret illness, another woman or (the worst imaginable) illicit dealing in drugs. It takes us through the insecurities of youth... which Abe rides out in parties and flings, in bringing the builders in to renovate his half of the inherited house he shares with his younger sister, whilst that sister stuffs cotton wool into the window frames to stop the draughts, treasures the ancient furniture and nurtures the garden. Is there symbolism in the fact that Abe takes the upper two floors, leaving his sister the ground and the basement?
Of course there is. Davey is a compact writer. She never wastes a word. Even the naming of her characters is laden with import. Rivers. Epworth. It is the quality of her writing that makes this a book worth picking up. There is a progression of a kind, a coming to terms of sorts, if not a resolution... to call it a "plot" does seem to overwork that word a little and yet the whole holds together and flows slowly to a point at which one is happy to leave these people to the next stage of their lives. But it is the craftsmanship of the book that recommends it above the norm.
Davey has a wonderful turn of phrase. As she speaks of a corporate golfing umbrella which, like the flag of a recently invented country, represented something, though no-one knew what... or the brick-shaped package of foil-wrapped leftovers... or the black hole at the end of the platform... that sucked people in she creates images and ideas that hover just beyond explication.
It is the kind of language and the gentle enquiry into ordinary lives on a momentary basis that makes reading a pleasure in itself... an enjoyment of the words and individual pictures so that the story is almost a by-product.
At only 200 pages, it is one to read at a sitting on a long lazy summer afternoon in a shade-dappled garden. Indulge.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Taxi Queue by Janet Davey at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Taxi Queue by Janet Davey at Amazon.com.
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