Solicitor Anthony Simpson is one of four commuters whose lives on one momentous day are charted in Jane Sanders’ punchy novella. Anthony, who catches the same train into the city every day with Simon, Eleanor and Gerry, is a senior partner in the medium-sized Simpson and Sons.
With a deep antipathy for computers, Anthony ‘nostalgically thought back to ledger cards and bank statements’, lamenting that people go online to find a solicitor and ‘look for the cheapest option’. Sanders, a solicitor and a commuter herself, uses money as a motif throughout this parable on how vulnerable we all are to the ebb and flow of business.
Author: Jane Sanders
Publisher: Bookworm, £7.99
‘When there’s no money, all choices stop,’ reflects Eleanor, a business account manager in a bank, a statement that epitomises this story’s trajectory towards tragedy. She is emblematic too of the long-haul commuter who has a ‘solitary life’ but ‘her work and the customers [keep] her busy and fulfilled’. Simon, who works for a clothing manufacturing company where he has enjoyed a meteoric rise, and railway timetable fixer Gerry, hiding ‘himself in figures’, also fall into the mould of comforting routine.
Yet there is nothing predictable about the powerful ending. While Sanders’ observations of travel are unremarkable, her spare, pacy style steers our four commuters into perilous situations where they are forced to re-evaluate themselves. Sanders’ handling of point of view is particularly adroit, though I wouldn’t have minded learning about the characters through dialogue rather than interior monologue.
With strong, convincing characters and a realistic story, this is at once bleak and hopeful testimony to the life of a commuter.
Nicholas Goodman is a sub-editor at the Law Society Gazette