One Moment, One Morning
The Brighton to London line. The 07:44 train. Carriages packed with commuters.
A woman applies her make-up. Another occupies her time observing the people around her. A husband and wife share an affectionate gesture. Further along, a woman flicks through a glossy magazine.
Then, abruptly, everything changes: a man has a heart attack, and can’t be resuscitated; the train is stopped, an ambulance called.
For at least three passengers on the 07:44 on that particular morning, life will never be the same again.
I’ll be honest, the reason I picked up this book is because I liked the teacup picture on the front cover, and had a Waterstone’s voucher for Christmas. The reason I then bought it was a reviewer’s comparison of Sarah Rayner to Kate Atkinson. While One Moment, One Morning isn’t quite in the same league as Atkinson when at the top of her game, it is a moving and thoughtful story full of very real and often very raw emotion.
The story centres around the lives of three women following the events of that one moment, that one morning, on a train from Brighton to London. Lou sits and subtly watches the people sitting around her until a horrible incident happens and she watches a man have a heart attack and die. Anna is on the same train in a different carriage, and catches a taxi with Lou after it becomes clear their train is not going any further. Karen is Anna’s best friend, and in a tragic (but believable) coincidence, is the wife of the man who has just died.
Describing the week that follows, Rayner shows the reader the support and strength of female friendship, as well as movingly examining the pain and seeming unreality of death and grief. As you would probably expect from the subject matter, this isn’t a jolly read, but it never crosses into being mawkish or sentimental. The characters’ believability is what makes this such a good read; they are people you feel could exist. The dialogue between characters seems very natural, and their emotions very real. As so often happens after a shocking and traumatic event, the women look at their lives and are forced to face up to things that seem overwhelming. Whether that is how to tell your young children that their father has died, realising that your own relationship isn’t working, or that you need to be more honest and true to yourself, each character has something to work through.
One Moment, One Morning is a poignant and ultimately uplifting novel which takes something painful and weaves throughout it moments of friendship, hope and even humour.