Book of the Month
Strangers on a Train

Publisher: Penguin Readers
Author: Patricia Highsmith

ISBN 9871 4058 8232

Intermediate +

One of the best ways to learn a language is to read stories written in that language. This is because when you read you see vocabulary in context, and you can follow 'natural' dialogue. Also grammar is learned by reading grammatical sentences and learning how and when different grammar forms are used. When you want to practice reading books in English, you have two different approaches that you can try. The first is to read books which are written for people at your level of language. The other approach is to take a book which was originally written for the English-speaking public, and to find a simplified version. This book is an example of the second kind a classic English language thriller that has been re-written for EFL students. This story later became a famous film by the great director Alfred Hitchcock. In fact the same author who wrote this book also wrote 'The Talented Mr Ripley' which was a recent major movie.

This version of 'Strangers on a Train' was re-written for level 4 intermediate readers, and begins with an introduction which explains the history of this famous story. This new version is much shorter, being only 11,810 words long. This text is divided into nineteen chapters spread over sixty-five pages. Therefore this is not a very large book, even with the full page grey-and-white illustrations which accompany the text. As you read exercises are set to make sure that you understand the story and some of the grammar used, and there is also a short list of the most important vocabulary. These exercises also have questions for the reader to consider or discuss before the start of each chapter. At the end there is a set of writing exercises of the sort a teacher might set as homework if this book were used as a class reading text.

Who is this book for? Well, if you are at the right reading level, then this is a chance to enjoy a famous story that is still interesting and exciting almost half a century after it was written. Also, as mentioned earlier, reading an exciting English book is a good way to learn English enjoyably and without much effort. This book can be read by someone studying alone, and carried in a backpack or bag for reading whenever you have the time. However it is designed to be read and discussed by a group of people studying together, and that is the best way to use this book.

Verdict: useful but expensive for 65 pages
Assessment 6/10

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