Imagine Strangers on a Train meets Beauty and the Beast in a time of Brexit, poverty and class distinctions and you have the bare bones of Amanda Craig’s ninth novel, The Golden Rule.
Picked by all the nationals as a book of 2020 after being published in the summer, The Golden Rule does what Craig’s novels do best, according to Alex Preston in The Observer, ‘wrapping the reader in a tight, lean narrative, showing the strangeness that lies at the heart of normal-seeming lives.’
Elizabeth Lowry in The Guardian described the novel as having ‘all the elements of an irresistible summer read: a rollicking plot, a heroine who is more than a match for anything the author throws at her and meaty social issues.’
When Hannah is invited into the First-Class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, she walks into a spider’s web.
Now a poor young single mother, Hannah once escaped Cornwall to go to university. But once she married Jake and had his child, her dreams were crushed into bitter disillusion. Her husband has left her for Eve, rich and childless, and Hannah has been surviving by becoming a cleaner in London. Jinni is equally angry and bitter, and in the course of their journey the two women agree to murder each other’s husbands. After all, they are strangers on a train – who could possibly connect them?
But when Hannah goes to Jinni’s husband’s home the next night, she finds Stan, a huge, hairy, ugly drunk who has his own problems – not least the care of a half-ruined house and garden. He claims Jinni is a very different person to the one who has persuaded Hannah to commit a terrible crime. Who is telling the truth – and who is the real victim?
So what happens next? I’m off to get the book. I can’t wait to find out.
Amanda Craig will be in conversation with Celia Brayfield at the Electric Palace on Friday 6 November at 11am.