Unemployed, divorced, an alcoholic; life is at an all time low for Rachel. She gets the same 08:04 train into London every weekday so her flatmate won’t know she’s been fired and looks forward to Fridays as it is more socially acceptable to drink alcohol on the train. Still in love with her ex-husband, jealous of his new wife for giving him the baby she never could and desperate for escapism, Rachel romanticises the life of a couple she sees from the train window of her commute. Jess and Jason, as she’s named them, are beautiful and madly in love. Unfortunately, the couple live a few doors down from the house she shared with Tom and now is forced to see the blinds change as he and his new wife become a family. One morning however, Rachel is witness to a shocking event outside her dream couple’s house that forces her to question her own reliability and plunges her back into the life of her ex and inevitably the life of Scott and Megan, the couple she’s watched from afar.
The Girl On The Train is journalist Paula Hawkins’ first novel and it is expertly crafted. Shifting between three female narratives, Hawkins is able to create a sense of unease from the first few pages. Rachel’s alcohol abuse makes her unreliable as she regularly wakes up not knowing what she did the night before but feeling dread, shame and fear as she trawls through he phone to find clues. Feeling that what she saw may be the key to the events that unfold, she stumbles her way through her old street, contacting both her ex and visiting the house she’d watched. Despite trying to help, her motives are soon questioned and reliability dismissed leaving her feeling she needs to take matters into her own hands. As the novel progresses, it is clear none of the characters are who they seem and none are particularly likeable.
Some critics have highlighted how strange it is to have such an unlikable character as a protagonist yet I disagree. I don’t hate Rachel, I pity her. I wanted better for her and often found myself shouting “No don’t do that” and surely that’s the point? Despite being extremely flawed, She invokes feeling in her readers, whether that’s hate, annoyance or pity, the fact the reader feels something means they’re connecting with the story and her flaws only make her more human. This novel explores the nature of love, and how it is a complex emotion that causes vastly different reactions and behaviour in everyone, yet can also leave people vulnerable. Isn’t it the ones you love the most, the ones you trust the most?
I finished this within hours of starting it, at 320 pages it isn’t a particularly long novel, I was hooked from the first page. I felt tense and uneasy from the first few pages, desperate to read on. It is set to become 2015 bestseller and with DreamWorks having the film rights we’ll soon be seeing it on the big screen. I can’t wait!
Buy The Girl On The Train here