Forgotten dreams

12 03 2016

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson


Robert Grainer is a day labourer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century – an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Shipped by train in 1893 into the woods of the Idaho panhandle, he grows up, works on logging gangs, falls in love, and loses his wife and baby daughter to a particularly pernicious wildfire. Derailed by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime.

Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West, Train Dreams captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.

A beautifully balanced and lyrical novella in which an ordinary labourer struggles to come to terms with his life in this rapidly changing country. Short and quiet but far from slight. An outstanding work.

4.5 stars

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