Have you ever boarded your morning commute and wished you’d never arrive at your destination? That is what happens to the protagonist of The Way to Work. Having boarded what he assumes to be his usual 8:08 service, he soon discovers that all is not as it first seemed.
Does this train stop at any station? Do the carriages ever come to an end? And where is the colleague he thought he saw, as he took his place in the quiet coach? Our narrator reflects on his job as salesman for a cat litter manufacturer as he wanders down-train in search of answers – yet the sliding doors that close behind him appear to be malfunctioning, and every person he meets seems to remember very little of their past.
Seduction, destiny and salvation all come into play as this relentless novel unfolds, and we discover precisely where the 8:08 is heading and just who is in charge.
‘Like Christine Brooke-Rose or Georges Perec, Ashton works within his self-imposed constraints with energy, wit and inventiveness; Living in a Land offers a refreshing alternative to the burnished banalities of a Barnes or McEwan. But it also provides an implicit diagnosis of both the proliferation and constriction of possibilities in the way we live now, facing a profusion of ‘lifestyle choices’ which are in fact closely circumscribed and which never touch the real. While Sartre supplies its epigraph, Ashton’s novel maps a land – or is it a hedonistic hell? – in which one will never find a key Sartrean component: authenticity.’ —Nicholas Tredell, PN Review
‘Sean Ashton has a genuine gift for one-liners. I loved the description, in the persona of a literary scholar, of Eric Bristow smoking while playing darts: ‘Eric is quite literally prospering with one hand while killing himself with the other.’’ —Steven Poole, Guardian