The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line
by Ruth Thomas
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 14 Jan 2021 | Archive Date 14 Jan 2021
'I LOVED IT! All the best bits of Barbara Pym, with a little Jane Austen - on speed' -Sarah Salway
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.
'I would follow Sybil down any domestic/Beckett rabbit hole' -Reif Larsen
'Sybil is an audible presence, someone that must be taken on her own terms, in her own words. The almost zen handling of voice is a joy.' - Janice Galloway
'I just think it's glorious. Absolutely brilliant! So funny so sad, so uplifting and so gripping. What a cracker!' -Alan Warner
'Resonant and romantic, sad but never sentimental and laced through with wicked shafts of humour' -Lesley Glaister
'Wry, sharp and tender. A delight' -Meaghan Delahunt
We're looking forward to running a blog tour to celebrate publication in January, alongside a series of online events - we hope you'll join us!
We're looking forward to running a blog tour to celebrate publication in January, alongside a series of online events - we hope you'll join us!
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 43 members
Sybil is happy enough with her life – a boyfriend, Simon, and her undemanding work in The Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies. Until her former lecturer seduces Simon and her relationship is kaput, and the aforementioned lecturer begins working in RIPS, wanting Sybil’s help in indexing a book. But Sybil knows more about Helen then her lecturer would like so sets about – naturally enough – to expose the noted academic as being less than diligent in her work. I found it to be a subtle read: it’s not action packed, rather quieter but in being so it means you lean forward more, wanting to absorb everything that is going on within the novel. I thought most of Sybil’s reactions felt real and human, and I was endeared to her as a character.
This book is exactly what I expected - a light and amusing read. Not challenging, but not so lightweight that you can skim through it without missing anything. Perfect for cold, dark evenings, curl up on the sofa by the fire (or the radiator!) with a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy this book.
The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line Sybil 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 a trustee and proceeds to inveigle herself into Sybil's work and personal life. There follows the story of Sybil suffering at first but ultimately exposing Helen for the fraud she is. I loved this quiet story which completely draws you in. I agree with the comparison with Barbara Pym - sometimes a story doesn't need to be dramatic and shouty to be totally engrossing! Highly recommended and I look forward to seeing what the author does next. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book.
I hugely enjoyed this book. I was drawn to Sybil. Her character had me so invested, she felt raw, honest and so relatable. A lovely story and a beautiful book.
Very enjoyable, written at a beautiful pace the story unfolds wonderfully. Fantastic characters. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I read this in a few hours which is a testament to how much I enjoyed it. It isn’t chick-lit dramatic, you couldn’t predict the ending or write the plot and yet it was familiar and reassuring. Poetic. The main character Sybil is reunited in an accident on an ice rink with her ‘nemesis’ and old university lecturer who ’steals’ Sybil’s boyfriend and the story is essentially about Sybil putting herself back together again emotionally and physically. I loved how the writer evoked Sybil’s increasing lack of grasp on things; how you could sense her mind wasn’t quite ‘right’ after the accident. I also loved the backstory wasnt over explained or laboured on. Sybil was complex and interesting, flawed and beguiling all at once. I really enjoyed the hours I spent reading this, Thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy of the book which I received in exchange for my honest review. 4 stars recommend.
Thank you to Netgalley, Sandstone Press and Ruth Thomas for this ARC in return for my honest review. A slow moving but beautifully written book telling the story of Sybill life after her boyfriend leaves her for her nemesis. While not an action packed book, I really enjoyed this and found it to be a charming story.
This is a subtle book, no big action scenes or romance, instead it’s all about the character of Sybil and I was fully invested in her. Sybil is someone we can all relate to and as the story evolves, all the emotions that Sybil experiences I’m pretty sure we’ve all felt in some way at some point in our life. I honestly had no idea where this book was going to go, although throughout, the author drops little hints that Sybil may be suffering more than expected from her ‘accident’ at the beginning of the book. Mixed with everything else that is happening, from her love life failing and having to work with Helen who she despises, you can see how Sybil’s life starts to unravel. Whilst there may not be big twists or fast paced action, don’t let that put you off. I was so engrossed in the life of Sybil that it didn’t need any big scenes. She is the character for everyone – real, honest and flawed. Overall this is such a lovely story with a main character we can all relate to in some way.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an early review copy. I finished this book in a few hours. Unputdownable. The ending was so unpredictable or what would happen next. Sybil, reunited in an accident, on an ice rink with her “enemy”. Who is an old university lecturer. The person who stole her boyfriend. The story is about how Sybil puts her life back together both emotionally and physically. It was lovely to see how the writer conjured up Sybil’s increasing lack of her grasp on things; the way the reader could sense her mind wasn’t quite in the right state after the accident. The backstory, wasn’t over-explained or dragged on, another thing I loved. I though that Sybil was a complex and interesting, yet flawed and beguiling person, all at once. The few hours I spent reading this were well deserved. Recommend it.
This was just the right book to read over a cold weekend in lockdown! A light, fun and engaging read, and while I felt the plot regarding the head injury was obvious to the reader, it didn’t detract from enjoyment. I liked the ins and outs of the team and her housemate with the protagonist, and the characters were well written.
This is a light and amusing read and whoever thinks that books should be dramatic and loud to have an effect is wrong. A quiet book can draw you in just as easily and this one does. The story follows Sybil who works at the Royal Institute of Prehistorical Studies (RIPS). She enjoys her job and her life, being in a relationship with Simon. However, an incident at the skating rink brings back into her life, her tutor from her university days - Helen - her nemesis. Sybil finds that not only is Helen appointed Head of Trustees at RIPS, but she also seduces her boyfriend, Simon, and so is left broken-hearted. Without giving any spoilers away, you find yourself rooting for Sybil as she tries to find a way to revenge herself on Helen, both personally and professionally. Helen is a character who is so beautifully drawn that any female reader will immediately dislike her. From her introduction, when Sybil recounts her very first tutorial with her when she told her tutees to 'call me Helen', we can see that this is a woman who will always be more popular with men than women and doesn't she know it. The author also describes the other members of the Museum so that we understand all their quirks and their little academic jealousies. She brings us into a world peopled by those whose domain is the darkened corridors of the museum. We walk side by side with Sybil as she puts herself together emotionally and physically and at the end of the book, we let her go, pleased with what she has achieved because as the old saying goes, 'revenge is a dish best served cold.'
Reading this book took me right back across the years to my daily commutes into London! Told with humour, Ruth Thomas captures the feel of working life and relationships in London so well. Sybil is working for the Royal Institute of Prehistoric Studies when her old adversary Helen is appointed as Head of Trustees. To add to her misery, through Helen’s dramatic discovery of ancient grains in a hoard of Beaker people pottery fragments, she meets Sybil’s boyfriend Simon and promptly steals him away… I empathized with Sybil as she tries to deal with the loss of her relationship with the (in my opinion) rather flaky Simon. This theme of loss is continued throughout the novel when grief is addressed with the death of Sybil’s grandfather and the friendship of her boss Raglan and his long term, now deceased, colleague Peter. There were many times that I chuckled to myself throughout his book and I really enjoyed Sybils little foray into poetry as a way of moving on. In fact, a nice touch in the book is how it is interspersed with haikus: I was angry with my friend, I told my wrath, My wrath did end. With the constant themes of relationships, loss and finally revenge running through The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line I found it a really enjoyable read with characters I could relate to. [This book is currently available to listen to on BBCRadio4]
This has been a very interesting and quick read, expect a realistic story where you’ll feel part of it, because Sybil makes you feel connected to her story and wanting to know more. We all have our life more or less on rails; the job, the personal situations, the friends… but what would happen if our nemesis returns to our life to mess everything? Let’s be honest, Sybil hates the perfect Helen, so she has to fight for what she wants and don’t let her take everything she loves. It didn’t seem a fiction story if you think it coldly but something we all had lived when we were young, the rivalry with the other students to be the best and not being ignored. So, it was easy to like Sybil and want her happiness, feel attracted to her and miss her at the end of the story, believe me. And just a little spoiler, Helen will have a little surprise… This is not a complex story but full of details and sweet moments, to make you disconnect for a while and wonder if we have been Sybil once in our lifetime. The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line is a little gem that will keep you reading all night. Ready?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.