Cover Image: The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line

The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line

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Member Reviews

Sybil works at the Royal Institute of Prehistoric Studies, and is happy with her boyfriend Simon.  Then, her former tutor Helen arrives as a Trustee and also steals her boyfriend...

I find one line in the blurb rather interesting:  'Sybil becomes obsessed with exposing Helen as a fraud, no matter the cost.'.  I didn't find that at all in the book, it felt that life just happened around Sybil.  This was the charm of the book - not much happened and the big things that did were treated in exactly the same way as the minutiae of life.

This would have been a great book to listen to on audio.  

3.5 stars from me.
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I would like to extend my thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for sending me this advanced reader’s copy in return for a fair, frank, and honest review.

I was attracted to reading this book by the title alone as it was unusual, however, I was unable to finish this book. I appreciate what the author was trying to do but I just could not get into it at all. I did feel some relatable parts of the book, i.e., loneliness and betrayal, however, there was no depth to the characters and because they had not been described as such, it left me wanting more. It could have been so much more than it was because in life, there will always be Sybils and Helens. I did notice there were some parts of Sybil that I also found whilst reading Eleanor Oliphant, but just not the substance.
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I really enjoyed The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line, Sybil was a very relatable character and the story was well written. It was easy to get into and I got through it quite quickly!
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Having read the blurb, you would have thought Sybil and indeed the contents of the novel to be quite nasty, as Sybil thought up ways to exact her revenge, I can report that actually it wasn’t. Instead The Snow and The Works On The Northern Line was a quiet contemplative novel, the story of a young women who didn’t quite know how to deal with what life had dealt her.

Sybil herself, seemed older than what she actually was, no night clubs or crazy friends, a quieter life with her then boyfriend Simon and a job steeped in academia at the Royal Institute of Prehistoric Studies. A chance meeting with a past university tutor, Helen, lit the flame for change, a break up and the prospect of Helen’s shadow hovering over her every move at work. I loved how Thomas made us instantly dislike Helen, not merely for stealing Sybil’s boyfriend but her complete lack of empathy, her selfish pursuit of academic fame. Thomas gave us that overriding feeling that her prominent discovery concerning the Beaker People wasn’t quite right, a feeling we shared with Sybil. I liked the quiet way Sybil thought of ways to discredit Helen, never knowing quite what to do, confusion reigning in her mind, perhaps reflective of her mental state. It was a mental state that lived in the doldrums, that saw no joy in the world around her. Thomas made her more and more insular, as she internalised her feelings, her thoughts, withdrew from friends and in some respects her colleagues.

As time progressed small events gradually snowballed within Sybil’s mind, her ability to process and reason, to see clearly slowly overtook before one last tumultuous interaction with Helen. It was an ending that you perhaps didn’t expect but made sense, answered questions and gave Sybil some much needed clarity.

It was the understated, calm manner of the narrative that so impressed, Thomas’s ability to engage and hold your interest, to have no need for sharp, shouty interactions but to let the actions of the characters speak for themselves.

It was a brilliant examination of a young woman’s mental state, of a need to make sense and discover the direction her life needed to take, a novel I enjoyed immensely.
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Hidden within the confines of The Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies, Sybil is happy enough with her work - and her love life. Then to her dismay, her old adversary, assertive and glamorous Helen Hansen, is appointed Head of Trustees. To add insult, Helen promptly seduces Sybil's boyfriend. Betrayed and broken-hearted, Sybil becomes obsessed with exposing Helen as a fraud, no matter the cost.

The publishers suggested this would be like Barbara Pym crossed with Jane Austen. I’m not sure it was that. It was very light – I would have loved for the characters to have had more depth and the central point of conflict between Sybil and her nemesis Helen Hansen seemed more than a little cartoonish. That said, I liked the museum setting very much, the writing was fine, and what I did really love was the way poetry is woven in – to my mind a hard thing to do convincingly. In an attempt to distract herself from sadness Sybill signs up for an evening poetry class. She’s not great at it, but that doesn’t matter. Here little haikus opened chapters with a pleasing randomness mirroring Sybil’s inner-unravelling while other characters quote poetry in a way that actually seemed believable. I liked the way the author drew it all together at the end, and so on balance I think recommended, and would be a fun one to debate at book club.
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This novel, from the perspective of Sybil, its protagonist, is about her work cataloguing items and doing some archiving at an archaeological institute in London. I realise that sounds dull - sorry! It’s actually not - it’s about much more than that.

Sybil’s relationship with chef Simon comes to an end, shortly after an ice-skating incident in Streatham. It soon turns out that Simon is seeing Helen Hansen, a professor at the institute who was also Sybil’s lecturer at university. Seemingly, there is some history and when Helen tells Sybil about Simon, Sybil’s life begins to unravel.

Near the end, it becomes clearer why Sybil has behaved in the way she has. She knows that Helen is fraudulent, and her ‘Winchelsea Hoards’ find is not quite what is seems, even though the Beakerware merchandise is the institute’s next big thing. Parts of this novel are a little incongruous. The cup that Sybil finds is an example. I assumed it would be more significant than it was. 

The confessional-style novel is not something I always enjoy. Some recent ones (which have been raved about) haven’t always impacted on me in the same way. However, I did enjoy this. I liked Sybil’s voice, and empathise with her; her life falling apart is not all her fault. It’s not without its flaws but it’s an enjoyable read nonetheless.
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This is one of those beautiful stories that captivates you from the very beginning. 
I found the fact that the story wasn't overloaded with drama charming, and a nice change from many books I have read recently. Instead this book reels you in with its engrossing storyline that flows perfectly throughout. 
This author certainly had a truly wonderful writing style that really connects with the reader. 
A marvellous read that I truly enjoyed.
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I did like the look of this book just from the title!  We meet Sybil, who works at The Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies.  She has a boyfriend, Simon, but following an accident at an ice-skating rink, Simon ends up going home with Sybil’s old tutor, Helen Hansen.  Unfortunately for Sybil, she finds herself working with Helen which turns her nice, stable life into chaos.

I liked Sybil’s character, and thought she was far more worthy without Simon in her life, or even Helen for that matter.  I disliked Helen with a passion, and waited eagerly for her comeuppance at some point in the story!  Whilst it sounded an interesting storyline, it was too slow for my liking, and I felt there was a lot of talking about something happening, instead of it actually happening!  Apart from Sybil, I struggled to connect with any of the characters and the plot jumping around a lot confused me to the point where I lost interest.  Although it was only a fairly short book, it took a lot longer to read than it should have done.  It had some redeeming parts – the title, Sybil and the poetry mentioned – but sadly failed to hold my attention the whole way through.
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Ioved the distinctive narrative voice of this book. It is not an action-packed novel but it is a beautiful exploration of Sybil who is comfortably making her way through life until someone from her past reappears and promptly encroaches and steals parts of Sybil's existence.

I am not the first, and certainly won't be the last, to make comparisons of the feelings I have over The Snow And The Works... as those I also experienced when I read Eleanor Oliphant, but I really enjoy each separately.
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Sybil is happy in her job until her nemesis, Helen, comes to work there. Helen has stolen Sybil's boyfriend. She manages to get people under her spell, and everything comes easily to her. Helen is careless with people. Something is too good to be true about Helen and Sybil determines to find out what it is.
Everyone has known a Sybil or a Helen. Part of the book's joy is watching Sybil put herself back together.
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Ruth's writing always delights me. She has a way with words and their timing which, accompanied by astute observation of human behaviour make  for laugh out loud moments which catch you by surprise, and characters you can really empathise with.
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With thanks to Netgalley and sandstone press.

I really wanted to enjoy The snow and the works on the Northern line as most other reviewers seem to enjoy this book.

Sadly it didn't hold my attention all that much, I found the main character Sybil rather on the annoying side and found myself plodding through the book.
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This was a definite departure from my normal type of read and I have to confess, I was not at all sure the style was for me, until I found myself drawn into Sybil's life.

This fairly 'normal' young woman works at the Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies (RIPS) and all seemed to be going so well until there was an accident at a skating rink swiftly followed by the departure of her lover. Worse still he has paired up with someone she works with.

I found myself willing Sybil through although that didn't mean I didn't have some advice to offer her, particularly in respect of her work ethic! 

A quiet book that I feel really burrowed its way under my skin.
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What a wonderful surprise this novel was. I’m getting worse, we’re only three weeks into January and I’m already in love with a new literary heroine. I absolutely adored Sybil and felt so at home in her company that I just kept reading all day. I then finished at 11pm was bereft because I wouldn’t be with Sybil any more. Yes, this is what happens to avid readers. We fall head over heels with a character, can’t put the book down, then suffer from book withdrawal. All day I’ve been grumpy and reluctant to start a new book. 

Sybil’s life is puttering along nicely. She has a job she enjoys at a London museum - Royal Institute of Prehistoric Studies (RIPS). There she produces learning materials, proof reads and indexes archaeological publications, and helps people with research enquiries. She has a great boyfriend, Simon, who is a chef and likes to make her bread with obscure grains. Her quiet, settled life is turned upside down when she, quite literally, bumps into an old nemesis from her university days. Sybil and Simon have gone ice skating, where they spot Helene Hanson, Sybil’s old university lecturer. Sybil doesn’t want to say hello, after all Helene did steal some ideas from her dissertation for her research into the Beaker people. They make their way over, very unsteadily, and end up careering into Helene’s group and in Sybil’s case the wall of the rink. She has a nasty bang on the head, and from there her life seems to change path completely. Only weeks later, Helene has stolen Sybil’s boyfriend and in her capacity working for a funding body she has taken a huge interest in RIPS who will be selling her Beakerware (TM) in the gift shop and welcome her onto their committee as chair of trustees. Sybil’s mum suggests a mature exchange of views, but Sybil can’t do that. Nothing but all out revenge will satisfy how Sybil feels. She’s just got to think of a way to expose that Helene Hanson is a fraud. 

First of all I want to talk about the structure of the novel. As Sybil’s life starts to unravel, so does her narration. A suggestion from a friend leads Sybil to a poetry class at her local library, so prose is broken up with poetry and very minimal notes of what Sybil has seen that she hopes to turn into haiku. This is a Japanese form of poetry with a set structure of thirteen syllables over three lines in the order of 5, then 3, and then 5 syllables. Having lived next to a Japanese meditation garden for several years I started to write and teach haiku as a form of meditation. It’s a form linked to nature and is very much about capturing small moments. So if Sybil sees something that might inspire her, it makes its way into her narration. I loved this, because I enjoy poetry but also because it broke up the prose and showed those quiet still moments where Sybil was just observing. She works with found objects - most notably a little teacup, left on a wall, that has ‘ a cup of cheer’ written on the side. There’s a very important reason for the fragmentary narration, that I won’t reveal, but loved and thought was so clever. Many of my regular readers will know why I connected with this. It could just be a visible symptom of the chaos in Sybil’s mind as she goes through a massive shift - physically from one flat to another - but a mental shift towards living alone, to coping with her nemesis constantly popping up and to the heartbreak. We’ve all been there so her situation is easy to relate to. 

Helene’s organisation brings much needed funding, but with it comes obligation. As chair of the trustees, she wants to change the structure of the building and all these precious spaces might be sacrificed. Her commercial enterprise, recreating Beakerware (TM) for the museum gift shop means the shop expanding into other areas. Exhibits that have been on display for years will be moved into storage to make room and Sybil dreads her using Simon as the face of the range, imagining giant posters of her ex greeting her every morning at work. To add insult to injury she inserts herself into Sybil’s everyday job by insisting on adding a section into Raglan’s upcoming book meaning that Sybil has to index Helene’s writing. Could there be a chance here, for Sybil to gain some satisfaction? As Sybil’s mum hints though, revenge can be more damaging to the person seeking it. 

The characters are brilliantly drawn, funny, eccentric and human. Sybil’s boss Raglan Beveridge - who she observes sounds like a cross between a knitted jumper and a hot drink - is such a lovely man, easily swayed but kind and tries to ensure that Sybil is ok. I enjoyed Bill who she meets several times across the book, in different situations. He’s calm, funny, thoughtful and shows himself to be a good friend to Sybil, even while she’s barely noticing him! Helene seems to hang over everything Sybil does, like an intimidating black cloud promising rain to come. She is a glorious villain in that she has very few redeeming features, and tramples all over Sybil’s world at home and at work. The author cleverly represents this in the very structure of RIPS. Sybil likes her slightly fusty, behind the times little museum. There’s a sense in which it is precious, that the spaces within shelter some eccentric and fragile people. They’re like little orchids, who might not thrive anywhere else. 

Helene’s organisation brings much needed funding, but with it comes obligation. As chair of the trustees, she wants to change the structure of the building and all these precious spaces might be sacrificed. Her commercial enterprise, recreating Beakerware (TM) for the museum gift shop means the shop expanding into other areas. Exhibits that have been on display for years will be moved into storage to make room and Sybil dreads her using Simon as the face of the range, imagining giant posters of her ex greeting her every morning at work. To add insult to injury she inserts herself into Sybil’s everyday job by insisting on adding a section into Raglan’s upcoming book meaning that Sybil has to index Helene’s writing. Could there be a chance here, for Sybil to gain some satisfaction? As Sybil’s mum hints though, revenge can be more damaging to the person seeking it. 

This was a quiet book. As I was reading it, I was engrossed and the outside world was muffled for a while. It reminded me of those mornings after snowfall, when the outside world is silenced. I felt a deep connection with Sybil. She’s offbeat, quirky and has a dark sense of humour. We meet her at her lowest point and we’ve all been heartbroken, but it was much more than that. I’ve been so broken by life, I was a like a vase, smashed into so many pieces I didn’t know if I could pull all those pieces back together. Even if I did, I knew I would never be the same person. My loss felt so huge that it affected my actions - I left doors unlocked when I went out, forgot to pay bills, and started to make mistakes at work. I had always prided myself on being very ‘together’ and here I was falling apart. I discovered Japanese art that healed me in some way - it’s called Kintsugi and it’s the art of repairing broken ceramics with liquid gold or other contrasting metal. It shows the cracks, that the piece has been through something, but it’s still whole and it’s still beautiful. I feel this is Sybil’s journey and what she needed to hear was broken things can still be beautiful.
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I really enjoyed this book despite it not being my usual read. I was intrigued by the cover and although it was a slow burn it completely pulled me in. A very subtle, convincing tale of betrayal, it makes the reader yearn to protect Sybil and right the grievous injustices of the snakelike Helen.
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What a beautiful yet sad story. I really felt for Sybil and rooted for her from the start. 

The sense of loneliness and loss is just heartbreaking and you are desperate for her to stand up to Helen who is just horrible to her. 

Loved the sense of being in london and the author wrote this in such a vivid manner that one almost felt they were there.
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Sybil works for an archaeological foundation in Greenwich Park, a job that doesn't really challenge her but suits her. she lives with her chef boyfriend Simon. Life is good. Then she encounters Helen, her former lecturer from uni, who rubbished her dissertation on the prehistoric culture known as the Beaker People. She never forgiven her and seeing her again is not the happy event that Helen appears to believe. 

Helen is not the friend she purports to be and steals Simon from her. Sybil, then, gradually falls apart while her friends look on and blame her grief. Her f!atmate tried to persuade her to 'move I'm and a work colleague suggests a poetry writing course, but nothing makes her feel better, other than Bill the librarian, and then she's not sure she's into. What really is wrong with her takes everyday surprise. 

I did enjoy this novel despite little actually happening, the dream of consciousness style is engaging and you can't help but sympathise with her plight,  but it is clear something is not right. The ending is more comfortable than it could have been but I think I'd like a more definite ending.

If there is a criticism of is that, for all the title suggests, the author's knowledge of the London tube network and the geography of London in general could be better.  No need to say more.
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I'm not quite sure what I expected this book to be, but what I got was something quite different.
Sybil, a woman younger than her old-fashioned name would suggest, works at the Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies in Greenwich and is living a quietly content life until her former university tutor Helen Hansen is appointed as a museum trustee and proceeds to interfere with Sybil's work and personal life. Helen claims part of Sybil's university research as her own and even steals Sybil's boyfriend, only to soon discard him because she'd got what she wanted - to hurt Sybil. Sybil suffers silently at first, resigned to Helen being the shining star, but soon starts to fight back & ultimately exposes Helen for the fraud she is. 
The book is in 3 parts, "the snow", "the works", "the northern line" but you'll have to read it to find out what they mean! 

Overall, this is an unusual, fairly quick read that reads more like a memoir than a fiction story & doesn't go quite where you would expect it to. It's full of little details that make you want to head to Greenwich to visit the Royal Institute of Prehistoric Studies (it doesn't exist but the Cutty Sark & Greenwich Park are worth visiting!). 

Disclosure: I received an advance reader copy of this book free via NetGalley. Whilst thanks go to the publisher for the opportunity to read it, all opinions are my own.
#TheSnowandtheWorksontheNorthernLine #NetGalley
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Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher.

The story is about Sybil, who works at an institute in Greenwich. After an accident at the ice-rink her life isn't the same. Her boyfriend leaves the hospital where she is still patched up with her old nemesis from university who also turns out to be connected to her work from now on, too. So, Sybil has to go through a break-up while also having to work with the woman who stole her boyfriend from time to time. Not to mention that this nemesis is a fraud and Sybil plans to uncover her come what may.  

This rather short book took me longer to read that I initially thought. It's mainly because I had trouble connecting with the MC, as well as the writing which wasn't often clear whether it was progressing with the main story or whether I was reading a flashback to a time before the accident. This latter is supposed to be a feature as the accident left Sybil with a head injury, but it took me while to understand this.
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I thoroughly enjoy this book there was so many Easter egg hidden gems in it. As a Londoner at now living in Ireland I had flashbacks and fond memories , and reminiscences  I’ve not had for many years. The Piction is of train journeys. Blackbird singing in the dead of night. The mystery and loveliness on museums. This book deals with theft on a personal and professional level. This book investigates betrayal and subterfuge. 
I can easily see this being an excellent movie.
Thanks so much to #NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ahead of publication in exchange for an honest review
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