So, you know how everyone and their dog was reading and talking about Gone Girl when it was released? The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins’ debut novel, is this summer’s version of that book. I talked about books with buzz last week on Information Morning and this book most definitely had buzz. Is it worthy, though? That’s the question.
Rachel takes the same trains from Ashbury, a tiny suburb outside of London, every day – into the city on the 8:04 and home from the city on the 17:56. From her seat, she can see into the gardens of the homes she passes and one garden in particular captures her interest. That’s the house where Jason and Jess live.
They are a perfect, golden couple. He is dark haired and well built, strong, protective, kind. He has a great laugh. She is one of those tiny bird-women, a beauty, pale- skinned with blonde hair cropped short. She has the bone structure to carry that kind of thing off, sharp cheekbones dappled with a sprinkling of freckles, a fine jaw.
Every day when Rachel’s train shudders to a stop at the red signal, Rachel imagines the life Jason and Jess must share (imagining is all she can do because she doesn’t really know them, not even their real names). But there is another reason that Rachel is fixated on this house and that’s because for five years she lived just down the road with her husband, Tom. Tom still lives in their old house, only now with his new wife, Anna, and their infant daughter, Evie.
It won’t take the reader very long to figure out that Rachel is an unreliable narrator and the reason for that will be obvious: Rachel is a drunk. She drinks in the morning, in the evening, mostly alone. She throws up, passes out and often doesn’t remember what has happened to her. She calls her ex-husband at all hours. She admits
I am not the girl I used to be. I am no longer desirable, I’m off-putting in some way. It’s not just that I’ve put on weight, or that my face is puffy from the drinking and the lack of sleep; it’s as if people can see the damage written all over me…
Then one day Jess (whose real name is Megan) goes missing and Rachel is sure that she has seen something that will help the police to find her. The problem is, of course, that once she pulls on the thread of what she thinks she saw, a whole lot of things start to unravel.
As messed up as Rachel is, it’s difficult not to empathize with her; her life has gone to hell in a hand basket in a variety of ways and she isn’t quite sure how to right herself. Hers is not the only viewpoint Hawkins allows the reader, though. We also spend time with Megan and Anna and each woman has their own suspect relationship with the truth.
The Girl on the Train is an entertaining read. I can certainly see what all the fuss is about and given that it only took me a few hours to read, I certainly can’t say that I didn’t like it. But I didn’t love it.