The woman is upper-class British, stranded I believe somewhere in the Middle East late 19th century or so (she's waiting for an often-cancelled train). While stuck there alone, she starts to realize that her husband was madly in love with a friend of theirs; her children have rejected her, and so on. At the end, as she finally travels back into more hospitable Europe, she decides she was fantasizing and none of that could be true.

I read this 25 years ago, but my impression was that it was written by a British author during or shortly after the time-period in the book.

  • Could you add in which language you read the novel (presumably English) and roughly when you read it (to exclude more recent works)?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jun 14, 2020 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


I believe this is 'Absent in the Spring' (1944) by Agatha Christie (writing under the name Mary Westmacott).

The book is later than the questioner thought, printed in 1944, but very much in the period of the Empire. Otherwise their memory seems to me exact. Wikipedia has a good article:

"Stranded between trains, Joan Scudamore finds herself reflecting upon her life, her family, and finally coming to grips with the uncomfortable truths about her life."

J. D. Beresford's review in The Guardian of 25 August 1944 concluded, "It is a very clever and consistently interesting study of a character that not even a desert vision could permanently change."

  • Please elaborate on exactly how this matches. Quoting sections from the Wikipedia article, for example. Personal opinion on the quality of the book also does not belong in a good story-ID answer.
    – bobble
    Commented May 29, 2022 at 0:48

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