Book Review: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson


Kindle Edition, 116 pages 3499237709


Published July 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux


This edition – hardback, due for publication Sep 2012 by Granta books 978 1 84708 661 7



Denis Johnson is the author of six novels, three collections of poetry, and one book of reportage.  His novel Tree of Smoke was the 2007 winner of The National Book Award.

1st edition (publ. Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

1st edition (publ. Farrar, Straus & Giroux) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was also a Pulitzer Prize Nominee for 2012.



I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from newbooksmag in exchange for an honest review.


A New York Times Notable Book for 2011

Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams is an epic in miniature, one of his most evocative and poignant fictions.

Robert Grainier is a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century—an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainier struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime.

Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West—its otherworldly flora and fauna, its rugged loggers and bridge builders—the new novella by the National Book Award-winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.






I really liked this book, it is told in such a simple style it is easy to read and it doesn’t take long as it is such a short book, only 116 pages.
It is difficult to describe the style, it is like a monologue but in the 3rd person. It is an excellent character study.
The only reason I haven’t given it a full 5-star rating is because it isn’t a full-on, action-packed novel.
It is gentle and flowing and you really get inside the person that is Richard Grainier and it is extremely well written, but if you like your books to be a little more plot led you will find it disappointing.


Star Rating – 4/5 – I really liked it.




~ by adelesymonds on September 14, 2012.

2 Responses to “Book Review: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson”

  1. This book sounds really interesting and unique- I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything described as a third person monologue 🙂 I may have to pick it up if I want a quick read any time soon!

    • Thank you for visiting my site.
      This is an interesting book precisely because of the style it is written in, when you get round to giving it a try I would appreciate it if you could leave a comment to let me know what you think.

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