Amy Reads Books

Mr Norris Changes Trains

Mr Norris Changes Trains - Christopher Isherwood Christopher Isherwood's novels inspired one of my favourite musicals (Cabaret) and one of my favourite films (A Single Man); and so receiving a selection of his novels for my birthday back in March was really exciting. I decided to start with the book I knew least about, Mr Norris Changes Trains.There isn't a great deal of plot within this novel; it mainly focuses on William Bradshaw's developing friendship with Arthur Norris; as Bradshaw and the reader try and figure out what Norris is all about. The introduction of any real dramatic plot does not take place until the final 1/3 of the plot, wherein Bradshaw finally begins to uncover Norris' true personality. The rest of the novel is more of a character study of Norris; and works very well at leaving the reader as mystified as Bradshaw as to his true intentions.I really enjoyed many of the side characters; I wanted way more Helen-the English journalist, who seemed totally fascinating to me-and it's a credit to Isherwood's writing that a character who appeared about twice in the whole novel was so well painted. There was also the addition of Bradshaw's landlady who holds a fairly big torch for Norris, and a prostitute who Norris frequently hires to fulfil his the wall...sexual desires. As a narrator, Bradshaw is pretty much perfect for this kind of novel. He buys in almost completely to the Norris myth, and readily admits his own bias and confusion over certain issues. Generally, Bradshaw is a perfectly okay character to spend the novel with. Norris, on the other hand, gave me bad feelings from the very beginning so the ultimate reveal was of little real surprise to me. It is worth nothing that, unfortunately, due to the time period that Isherwood was writing Bradshaw's homosexuality has to be very much tiptoed around, although there is one scene where he is described as holding another male character's hand. This prejudice is seen in the Baron von Pregnitz's (I think?) tale, and is one I found quite upsetting.My favourite parts of the novel were Isherwood's descriptions (through Bradshaw) of the changing atmosphere in Berlin as the Nazis slowly rose to power. The contrast between the excitement of the early days of the Communist movement and the increasing police presence in the early 1930s is really well established.For me, there was a little too much meandering around Norris, a character I already suspected, for me to really enjoy Mr Norris Changes Trains; although Isherwood's writing style is lovely and so I'm really looking forward to reading Goodbye to Berlin fairly soon.