After a chance encounter on a train the English teacher William Bradshaw starts a close friendship with the mildly sinister Arthur Norris. Norris is a man of contradictions; lavish but heavily in debt, excessively polite but sexually deviant. First published in 1933 Mr Norris Changes Trains piquantly evokes the atmosphere of Berlin during the rise of the Nazis.
A supreme example of a radiant prose rhythm married to the most delicious dialogue – a portrait of the subtly ruinous Mr Norris.
Isherwood sketches with the lightest of touches the last gasp of the decaying demi-monde and the vigorous world of Communists and Nazis, grappling with each other on the edge of the abyss
What the Berlin stories retain, to a unique degree, is the ability to tell us what it really felt like then - to feel involved with the Germans and still to find that they retained their mystery; to be in the mode, yes, of a camera, and yet to be furiously, hopelessly involved
The first literary novel that really switched me on was Christopher Isherwood's Mr Norris Changes Trains
He immortalised Berlin in two short, brilliant novels both published in the Thirties, Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye To Berlin, inventing a new form for future generations - intimate, stylised reportage in loosely connected episodes
From novels about parenting to making love last, here are some great books to read in your forties.
Katherine Bucknell edited The Animals, a collection of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy's love letters. She charts the journey to bringing them to life in a podcast starring Simon Callow and Alan Cumming