The Train: A Pilgrim Odyssey by Allan Ramsay
A bold attempt to make life’s journey for believer and non-believer alike into an adventure – but for whom?
The Train: A Pilgrim Odyssey
by Allan Ramsay
ISBN : 978-1-912601-09-7
Reviewed by David Stuckey
“This train is bound for Glory, this train …”
That old skiffle favourite came back to me when I picked up this novel. It seemed to promise nostalgia but instead it provided a somewhat bumpy ride through an imagined lifetime excursion accompanied by a varied assortment of thinly disguised characters similar to those you might find in the average congregation.
This scenario was initially off-putting - but when the excursion got going and I found myself back on track with the author’s vision, and the journey got better … it became enjoyable in a beguilingly contrived fashion. Some of the passenger names could have been more inventive but nevertheless it’s a great ride. You do however have to stick with it to the end of the line to get the whole effect.
It began as a simple artifice, quirkily handled, being perhaps a shade too contrived at times (especially with the passengers names – Fred Contentious, Auntie Lil Skeptic, Nicole Enigma, etc. – striving too hard to be a latter-day Bunyan parody maybe) but once you get used to that, the premise is pleasing and there should be enough pertinent profiles to keep a varied audience interested to the end of the line.
You may even recognise some of your own flock in this thinly veiled grab-bag of caricatures – or even some of the clergy who are also parodied (make what you will of the Revd Abigail Backslider and Bishop Arthur Manpleaser!)
The end of the line sees those true believers separated from those who rejected ‘King Victor’. In between there are dark days ahead for some involving execution and torture before rescue comes accompanied by Nicole Enigma, who goes with those rescued on to Calvary Junction and beyond.
The narrative could have done with a few more imaginative names for the main characters but the premise is beguiling, the action is often gripping and in the end the tale is quite revealing. Maybe it was all a dream … or was it?
It is certainly a bold attempt to make life’s journey for believer and non-believer alike into an adventure – but for whom? That’s for you, dear reader, to decide. Meantime, enjoy the ride.
David Stuckey is an author and former journalist, and a member of Maghull Baptist Church, Merseyside