Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

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[Edit: Originally published December 18,  2016]

Mr. Norris Changes Trains is a very political book.Taking place in Germany during the Nazi rise to power those themes certainly fit the times. Mr. Arthur Norris, the titular character, is a rather… shady isn’t the right word, but he’s not entirely a person who should be 100% trusted. And those thoughts are made clear by many other characters throughout the book. He’s not a great guy and he is a little bit romanticized by the main character, William Bradshaw. 

Mr. Norris always has these plans, that he never quite tells William about about. William gets more out of him than most of his other friends do, but it’s still not everything. The last ill-fated plan, however, reveals all. Mr. Norris seems to be perpetually in some sort of trouble or doing something a little bit sketchy. Money troubles seem to be a kind of trouble that Mr. Norris has with some regularity. 

He does work for the Communist party, though he person he does work for doesn’t trust him entirely, which is ultimately, a very wise move. Like I said before this is a highly political book. Dealing with the heavy tensions between the Nazi’s and the Communists. It’s not overloaded with politics, however, nothing seems heavy handed or shoe-horned in. It’s simply that the political is part of these characters day to day lives.

There’s a gay character, featured as one could be in a book published in 1935. He’s queer-coded very well and I had him pegged well before it’s revealed at the end of the book. It is revealed, of course, after you learn that he killed himself while he was on the run from the police for offering to sell political information.

Some warnings:

Antisemitism. I think the time period and location of the story alone would let you know that this could be something that came up.

BDSM. Not something you might expect but Mr. Norris has a “girlfriend” who is a dominatrix. The BDSM stuff only comes up a couple of times, but it’s also not something everyone wants to see.

Violence, mentions of torture. This is pretty much exclusive to the last chapter. Though there are mentions of fights throughout. The final chapter deals with some of the things that started happening after Hitler took power.

You can find the book here.

Related Reviews: Christopher and his KindA Single ManGoodbye to Berlin

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