Tea or Books? #42: trains vs boats, and Illyrian Spring vs Hotel du Lac

Trains! Boats! Anita Brookner! Ann Bridge! This episode has it all.

Tea or Books logoBooks set on trains vs books set on boats – Rachel didn’t want us to do it but it happened. And… it was a roaring success? Right? Well, I had fun. We’re back on more stable ground with Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge vs Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. And it’s only now that I’ve realised that both of those authors have the initials AB. Coincidence? Maybe, I don’t remember.

I’d love to hear more thoughts about trains and boats, and perhaps some defence from Anita Brookner aficionados… either way, give us a review on iTunes through your apps or whatnot, see our page on iTunes, and grab copies of As It Was by Helen Thomas and Fair Stood the Wind For France by H.E. Bates if you’d like to read ahead for the next episode.

The books and authors we mention in this episode are…

The Masters by C.P. Snow
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The Girl on the Train by Paul Hawkins
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Famous Five series by Enid Blyton
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Elizabeth Gill
The Pleasure Cruise Mystery by Robin Forsythe
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Mystery in White by Joseph Jefferson Farjeon
The Girl on the Boat by P.G. Wodehouse
Mrs Harris Goes To New York by Paul Gallico
The Provincial Lady in America by E.M. Delafield
All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Train in the Meadow by Robert Nathan
Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan
The Enchanted Voyage by Robert Nathan
Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
Three Men on a Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome
253 by Geoff Ryman
The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
Andrew Martin
The English Passengers by Matthew Kneale
Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor
Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
Journey’s End by R.C. Sherriff
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
Peking Picnic by Ann Bridge
All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West
Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
Family and Friends by Anita Brookner
Barbara Pym
As It Was by Helen Thomas
Fair Stood The Wind for France by H.E. Bates

11 thoughts on “Tea or Books? #42: trains vs boats, and Illyrian Spring vs Hotel du Lac

  • July 12, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    To my shame, I own several Ann Bridge books but I’ve never read them. However, I expect I would get on better with them than I have with my two reads of Hotel du Lac – didn’t really like it either time! I must put a word in for The Hotel by Elizabeth Bowen, which I really loved!

    • July 13, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      Yes i own 2 by Bridge and one is described as a ENID BLYTON style adventure in one review.”THE NUMBERED ACCOUNT a Julia Probyn mystery of which she wrote several.Have not read either of them.

  • July 12, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    This is an impressively long list. A few others I can think of for the boats category are
    Every Man for Himself – Beryl Bainbridge which is set on the Titanic
    The Cat’s Table – Michael Ondaatje set on a voyage from India to England

    And for trains – maybe Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

  • July 12, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    I have some suggestions to add to yours …


    Almost anything by Joseph Conrad (can’t believe you forgot to mention him!) – Heart of Darkness, The Nigger of the Narcissus, Typhoon, The Shadow Line, Lord Jim ..,

    CS Forester’s Hornblower series

    William Golding’s late sea trilogy, beginning with Rites of Passage, which won the Booker in 1980

    The Boat, by LP Hartley, one of his greatest novels, recently reprinted by John Murray

    Rhine Journey by Ann Schlee

    The Narriw Corner by Somerset Maugham (and some of his short stories such as P & O)

    A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (Martin Amis acted in the film version when he was a child)

    Does the Life of Pi count? (Is a raft a boat?)

    Coincidentally, CP Snow’s first novel was a detective story called Death under Sail.


    Stamboul Train by Graham Greene (his first major success)

    Barbara Vine’s King Solomon’s Carpet was set on the London Underground.

    The central character in Iris Murdoch’s A Word Child spent a large part of his life on the Circle Line, sometimes stopping of to drink in the pubs that used to exist at platform level at Sloane Street and Liverpool Street.

    And, finally, how could we not mention Thomas the Tank Engine?

    Thanks for the podcast .,.,

  • July 13, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    How could you be so crushing to poor Anita Brookner?! Her novels have a quiet elegiac tone with heroines who acutely feel the disconnect between themselves and the modern world they live in. Often brought up by elderly or foreign parents, they don’t ever quite feel they belong and Brookner captures this so very well in her writing. Try Providence or one of the other early titles.

    Perhaps for cars and bicycles you could try Jack Kerouac’s On the Road – truly the worst book ever written – and something on the Tour de France!

    • July 13, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      I feel guilty for not wanting to re read any Brookner but i have read all her books when they “came out”.

  • July 13, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    I recently read Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom, it’s quite good.

  • July 17, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I tried to read Hotel du Lac for this broadcast. I got through about a quarter of it before I gave it up. I “should have” liked it (plot, or lack of), but didn’t. It was a library book so back it went along with 3 Brookner paperbacks that I had picked up used over the past couple years but hadn’t read. Someone else can enjoy them. Illyrian Spring, on the other hand was a library book that I loved so much that I have since bought a copy to enjoy again sometime soon.

  • July 18, 2017 at 9:14 am

    I read Illyrian Spring a few years ago (I think a lot of the Dovegrey readers were chatting about it); I liked it but wasn’t madly in love with it, and I was underwhelmed by Peking Picnic. I did try to read Hotel du Lac but it really didn’t grab me. Maybe it was the wrong time — I read Incidents in the Rue Laugier a few years ago for International Anita Brookner Day, and I ended up really liking it. Maybe I just have to be in the right mood for Brookner.

    And I would add Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter to the list. I personally couldn’t get into it, but I know Thomas from Hogglestock loves it.

  • July 20, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Hello – love the podcast. I was wondering if maybe you could discuss reading one book at a time versus juggling multiple books at once. I go back and forth myself wondering which is best so it would be interesting to hear what other people think. Thanks!

  • July 24, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    You correctly identified books and trains as featuring frequently in children’s books and yet you did not mention the obvious series of this kind, the Reverend Awdrey’s Thomas the Tank Engine series. Strangely for a child who travelled everywhere by train (or else on foot), I don’t recall them being a prominent part of my own childhood. I do remember reading The Forest of Boland Light Railway. My edition is the one that (at the time of writing) could be found on a popular auction website here: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Forest-Of-Boland-Light-Railway-BB-D-J-Watkins-Pitchford-Acceptabl-/352106962117?hash=item51fb35dcc5:g:sFoAAOSwgv5ZXgvW
    Aside from the title and this cover, I don’t remember much about it. Perhaps I have more of a visual memory than I thought.


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