When I started making a list of to-re-reads, several titles came flooding into my mind. This book was not one of them. I was reminded of it by my best friend Lianna, in this text conversation we had:
Andie: What was that book we read with Miss Millest I think that had the twist ending where the guy actually was some sort of folk lore sea creature?
Andie: I think it was a stranger came ashore
Lianna: He turned into a pig or something
Andie: He was a selkie! Like…A werewolf in seal form. Or something.
Lianna: Or was that the caught on a train book
Andie: Wait what one is that!
Lianna: A book of yours that I still have about a kid who encounters four storytellers on a train and one turns into a giant
As already discussed last week, the selkie ending wasn’t as much of a twist as I had thought. And Lianna was slightly off because there were only three storytellers not four. But we’ve both read a lot of books so who can blame us for minor inaccuracies fifteen years on? Also who can blame her for apparently still having my copy of this book because it’s very possible her The Master and Margarita is on my bookshelf and I know I’ve had Catching Fire for more than a year. We’ll tradesies one day.
This time around I initially thought this book was a bit bold in its premise. Archie works on the train from Dublin, helping out in the kitchen and serving passengers. It doesn’t seem like terrible work for 1899, apart from the 4am wake up call. Then one slow day, three men bribe his boss into borrowing Archie for the day as the judge in their storytelling competition – this is the bold part. It’s one thing to write a book and hope people enjoy it, and it’s another to write a book that promises three additional enthralling tales inside of it.
Reading the author’s note later, I realized that the three tales the men told are actually retellings of Irish folk tales, so author Carlos Gébler isn’t exactly staking his own reputation on the quality of the stories inside. But, as you would expect with folk tales that have lasted for probably centuries, they’re full of charm and excitement. I feel for Archie – I wouldn’t know which to pick either. Truthfully I think I’m more torn between Mr. Fee’s Soul Cages and Mr. Cink’s Daniel O’Rourke and as Mr. Fee wasn’t really in the competition I would be left naming Mr. Cink as the winner which is a dreadful thought.
Gébler’s own tale which surrounds the three stories is itself clever and surprisingly suspenseful, if a bit abrupt in the end.