"The Railway Station Man" is an unusual novel. It is not terribly long, and we are offered only a very brief snapshot into the lives of the characters around which the story evolves. The main character is a widow who seeks a new life in a small coastal village in Ireland after her husband is tragically killed and finds a sort of guilty hard won happiness with her painting and her cat. Her loneliness is broken occasionally by the visits of her distant son, and eventually she finds a different sort of happiness with the eccentric war hero who has bought the local abandoned railway station with a view to restoring it.
If this is a novel of anything however, it is how fleeting any happiness can be. In the background of this seemingly innocent tale is the great Irish "troubles" - hints of the IRA and matters far from innocent. It has all the ingredients for a rich and fascinating tale.
However, all of these ingredients do not really make for the wonderful tale that it could be - it falls a little far from the mark. We do not get to know these pivotal characters very well - things are hinted at in their past but never elaborated on. There is some issue brewing in the background, and somehow this is only hinted at until the shocking conclusion - shocking in both what happens and how abruptly it finishes the book. It is certainly well written, and has the promise of a far greater novel, but that is all it is - the promise of a great novel, and one that falls way short.