Take the Late Train: Funny and wise, intelligent and disturbing – a memorable journey into the heart of life, love and memory.

Stephen Ketley’s life goes off the rails on the night of his tenth wedding anniversary. Suddenly, his marriage to Sarah is not quite as secure as it seems. Meanwhile, his stepdaughter Emma relies on him to mediate between her warring parents, his sister refuses to speak to him, and Audrey his mother drinks too much and shouts too loud. As his certainties fragment, Stephen recalls an idyllic summer in Florence with his first love, Giuliana. Forced to choose between career and love, authenticity and conformity, how can he make a decision when nothing is certain, least of all himself?


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Take the Late Train by Jack Messenger

‘Take the Late Train is largely set in Nottingham, UK, with several excursions – to London, to Matlock and to Florence in Italy. It forms a bridge between Farewell Olympus and another novel, called Noah’s Arc (details here). The writing in Take the Late Train is direct and unornamented, with lots of conversation and argument, and plenty of humour. I like the theme of loss and love in this novel, and there are plenty of literary and filmic allusions too.’ Jack Messenger

  • Great Characters

    Audrey, a jazz great whose complex problems and fall from grace wreck her family, but whose voice still beguiles and enchants

  • Powerful Writing

    Stephen’s secure life of teaching and marriage is shaken by professional and emotional betrayal and memories that cannot be forgotten

  • Intriguing Storyline

    Is the past – in the shape of Giuliana and the love they shared – really over or is it waiting for him at the end of the line?

Take the Late Train

Take the Late Train shows how it’s better to arrive late than not to arrive at all. The choices we make are not always irreversible, even if they seem so.

What Other People Are Saying About Take the Late Train


‘Canny and observant – a sharp and eloquent meditation on finding one’s truth. Simply wonderful.’ (Ginger Bensman, author)

★★★★★Take the Late Train

‘This is an intelligently and thoughtfully written story about how the choices we make affect our lives. Stephen, the main character, is a university lecturer and a literary man. It is, therefore, no coincidence that the novel is strewn with literary allusions. Some of these I noted and I am fairly certain there were some I missed. However, I would happily go back and read this book again to seek them out. After the first few pages, I was confident that Jack Messenger was going to deliver a good novel. This enabled me to relax and allow the drama to unfold. There were some things left unsaid in this book and the reader was allowed to wonder what might have been. This plot was skilfully executed and added to a very satisfying story line.’ (Readers Favorite)


‘What a treat - hard on the heels of Jack Messenger's Farewell Olympus comes Take the Late Train, a quite different but no less engrossing read. Weaving between the present day and a vivid, in some ways AS present, past, the story is a deliberation on choices made, including what to know and what to be complicit in 'unknowing', and action over inaction. The book’s considerable cast of characters is deftly drawn, and even those with walk-on parts tend to trigger a degree of identification or empathy in the reader. The author inhabits the thoughts of central character, middle-aged academic Stephen, but is equally convincing in his portrayals of a teenage daughter and elderly mother. The sets of couples who variously reveal themselves to be anything but, are juxtaposed with more isolated figures (and indeed, isolation occurs devastatingly within couples). While melancholy - and for some characters, tragedy - is a motif, so too is love. Stephen’s own story includes no small degree of hope, and is ultimately a celebration of free will. With overt and less obvious allusions to Shakespeare and other writers, and prose which blends precision with poetry - elderly, frequently drunk Audrey is 'dishevelled bedevilled' and two greyhounds are perfectly evoked by their 'clipping' in and out of rooms - this is a work to be savoured on many levels. Highly recommended.’ (Amazon UK review)