Let me say from the outset that Night Train to Lisbon is perhaps one of those books in which I cannot make up my mind, whether I like it or not. There were points about the book that I especially liked, but there were also aspects of the book that I found not to my liking. Thus, overall, I am ambivalent about this one.
Night Train to Lisbon follows the adventures of Raimund Gregorius, who is a teacher at a Swiss Gymnasium. One rainy day, he encounters a woman who seems to be getting ready to jump off a bridge. Fearing that she is committing suicide, he goes to her and prevents the jump. He immediately learns that the woman is a foreigner, and when he asks her what language she speaks, she replies português. The woman does something strange; she writes a phone number on his forehead. Enamored by the strangeness of the woman, and the exotic nature of the pronunciation of português, he decides to check out a used-book store where he comes across a book that consists of a collection of notes of a certain Amadeu de Prado.
And guess what? The overall impact of the weird encounter with the weird woman sets him off to this adventure. What was originally a very predictable and repetitive lifestyle was broken. Gregorius just takes off and leaves the school. He buys a train ticket to Lisbon, thus, taking the journey from Bern, which is what the title is referring to.
After arriving in Lisbon, he sets off on this treasure hunt, trying to find out who this Amadeu de Prado is. It turns out that he was a doctor, who lived during the Portuguese authoritarian regime, who was loved by the people until he treated one of the authorities, which caused him to be ostracized by the people. Because of that, he secretly joined the resistance, with hopes of redeeming himself.