When Rachel isn’t drunk, she thinks about getting drunk. She is fired from her job. She lies, whines, and pines for her ex-husband. Envies his current wife. So yeah, her life is a train-wreck. Her only daily cheer is a catching a train to and fro every day; from Euston to Ashbury. As the train passes by the town she used to live in, it stops at a signal and across the same house every time. She likes looking at the young couple living in the house, she can see them in their terrace every morning. They remind her of the happier times she had with her husband. But the perfect image she had of them in her mind is shaken, when she sees something appalling. When a police case involving that couple ensues, she approaches the detectives with the information. But are they going to believe her?
The book has been compared to Gone Girl and Hawkins’ writing to Flynn’s. And I can see why. The story is told in past and present timelines, till the past ends and merges into the current day. Though Rachel is the narrator for the most part, there are couple of other women too. And none of them are too likeable. None are happy in their own lives and keep craving for validation from men. Rachel’s one-step forward and two-steps backward routine is frustrating to witness and her alcoholism makes her look pitiable. I felt sorry for her and felt like whacking her into her senses. I just wished, someone; be it her roommate or mom, is more forceful about helping her into rehab or AA meetings. But if she did sort herself out, the book wouldn’t have been half as seductive as it turned out to be. That’s the beauty of what Hawkins has done with this story, entrench the negative effects of alcoholism into the heart of the mystery. Rachel’s memory and version of events is so unreliable that she is barely able to recall anything or convince herself, let alone convince us readers. She trips up, makes a fool of herself in front of detectives, her words have no credibility, and yet she doggedly keeps at it. And I loved her for that. Because it felt good picking up a book with a narrator like that, especially after couple of recent reading experiences with either passive or ridiculously naïve protagonists. Hawkins does an excellent job of juggling all the principal characters and keeping everyone relevant in moving the story forward.
The story is told in the “morning” and “evening” of each day, that took some getting used to. Because sometimes the previous night’s events are narrated during “morning”, the entire day’s events are narrated during “evening” and at other times it is just the present. I thought it was quite interesting and a different way to present the story. The book has some pretty insightful quotes too; this was my favourite:
For more quotes, check my Tumblr page here.
Two-thirds into the book, things start getting clearer (or maybe even earlier if you can take a good guess..) and maybe Hawkins could have held back the cards a bit longer. But it didn’t really take the fun out of reading the rest of the book. I was still eager to get the full picture; the when, why and how. It was such a smoothly written psychological thriller, and though it might not have had a final-pages flourish like Gone Girl, it didn’t have a hurried final-pages reveal like Sharp Objects either.
And now I come to the part where I have to find something strong and dramatic to end the review with a flourish, but I am not able to.. soooo … will just move on to the Amazon buy links:
Hardcover: The Girl on the Train – Hardcover
Paperback: The Girl on the Train – Paperback
Kindle: The Girl on the Train: Kindle