The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Published by Doubleday
15th January 2015
Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…
Paula Hawkins debut novel has already been compared to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and at times it seems that if you have written a crime novel, with a leading female protagonist (or in this case three of them), then this comparison seems to always crop up. It is unfortunate that you can't write a book these days without it being compared to something else that came before. However, in my humble opinion, The Girl on the Train is better than Gone Girl which I enjoyed but thought had a pffff ending that left me disappointed to say the least.
Anyway, back to the book in question, which attracted a huge bidding war last summer, with Doubleday winning over the other publishing houses concerned. I can see why, this is probably going to be huge this year, even more so when it hits the shelves as a paperback, and I wouldn't be surprised if it makes it to the big screen, as I thought it was a very visual novel.
The book starts with Rachel, on the train home from work that she takes every week night. When the train stops, Rachel always turns to look at the houses along the embankment, and in particular to see if a couple she has named Jess and Jason are at home. Rachel usually sees one, or both of them, each day, and in her head has visualised their perfect lives together. What she doesn't do is to look at the house just down from theirs, which it turns out, used to be hers. Rachel is an unreliable narrator, in that not only does she lie, but she also drinks, heavily, and it is this that makes her so untrustworthy. Whenever she does see something of significant importance, she usually seems to be drunk.
The other two narrators are Megan - or as we initially know her, Jess, and Anna who lives in Rachel's old house. Their lives become linked by Rachel and by what she sees from the train on the way home. The plot reminded me a little of the Steve Guttenberg film The Bedroom Window.
However, can we trust Rachel or does she have another agenda? Come to that, on the face of it, can we either trust Anna or Megan, or their partners Tom and Scott? Is everything that we see, or think we see, what it appears to be?
I read this in 24 hours because I needed to know what was going to happen next. I felt sorry for Rachel, who used to 'have it all' and is now just seen as an overweight, unemployed drunk who is considered unreliable by most people and even when she tries to convince people that what she knows is fact, they don't tend to believe her. Paula Hawkins writes about characters, with real flaws, that remind us that what people see on the outside, isn't necessarily what is going on on the inside.