This book has been popping up everywhere on my various social media lately. Facebook, instagram, online reviews. I needed a new book to read and read the synopsis quickly and quickly purchased it for my iPad. The Girl on the Train is author Paula Hawkins’ first novel, and it’s a quick, gripping read.
The girl on the train is Rachael, a thirty-something woman who is unemployed, alcoholic and still reeling from her divorce. Every day she gets up and gets dressed for a job she no longer has, and rides the train into the city so that her roommate doesn’t suspect how badly her life is coming apart at the seams. And every day, the train trundles past her old house. The house she now sees her husband and the woman he left her for living a seemingly perfect life in with their new baby. A few doors up from her former home, Rachael always looks into the home of ‘Jess’ and ‘Jason’, a couple who, through the train window, look like the perfect pair. One morning, though, Rachael’s perfect vision of Jess and Jason (whose actual names are Megan and Scott) is shattered when she sees Megan kissing another man. Not long after this, Rachael learns that Megan has gone missing. Worried that she may have the only believable piece of information to help solve the her disappearance, Rachael goes to the police, who find it hard to take an unemployed drinker seriously. Her credibility is further ruined when it’s revealed how invasive and bothersome she is for her ex-husband Tom and his new partner Anna, particularly when she’s on the booze, and that she suffers from blackouts where she simply can’t remember things. However, Rachael continues to insert herself into the puzzle, largely because she suffered a blackout on the night Megan disappeared, and she’s certain she was in the train station when Megan was last seen. Her continued attempts to investigate the disappearance irritate the police and anger Tom, Anna, and Scott, but ulitmately lead to a number of big revelations.
Touted as a thriller that’s in the same vein as Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train is a compelling read, particularly as the narrative shifts from person to person, and back and forth between the past and present. It’s easy to question each of the characters’ motives and trustworthiness, as each of them are flawed and have a few secrets of their own to keep, which definitely made me think of Gone Girl on numerous occasions. Rachael is a frustrating character – her alcoholism clouds her judgement and makes her do desperately humiliating things, and she often doesn’t seem that remorseful afterwards. However, as her involvement in the mystery of Megan’s whereabouts deepens, I was able to push aside my exasperation and delve deeply into the story with her. For a first novel, Hawkins has done a great job of creating a suburban world where people are not what they seem and secrets are confined in pretty little row houses no one would look twice at. Unless they are Rachael. Unless they have lived there. Unless they have somehow become embroiled in other people’s lives.
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