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Title & Author: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Genre: Murder mystery, suspense
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.
First thing’s first: The Girl on the Train didn’t remind me of Gone Girl much at all, aside from them both being suspense books with some well-written but terrible characters. I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing, just a note from my point of view. I went in anticipating one thing and found something very different, though I wound up enjoying the book in the process.
Second: everyone in this book is terrible. Every single person is just an awful example of a human being, except maybe Rachel’s roommate and a therapist. The three women who share narration duties are just terrible people in very different ways.
- Rachel, the original and primary narrator, is a drunk. Her marriage fell apart a few years back and she now takes the train past her former house daily to pretend to go to work. “Why pretend?” you ask. Because she hasn’t told her roommate that she was fired months ago. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine or cocktail but Rachel gets so drunk (sometimes while riding the train) that she blacks out. Rachel is obsessed with the couple who live a few houses down from her previous home, “Jess and Jason” – real names Megan and Scott. But she’s even more obsessed with her ex-husband, Tom. She still hasn’t changed her last name because she hopes they will get back together. (I think she said that it was just easier but let’s be honest here.)
- Megan, the second narrator, is a cheat and unsure of what to do with her life. She lost her job at an art gallery and now spends her days at home alone while her husband, Scott, works his IT job. They have a tense relationship and while you don’t see much of it first-hand, it seems at least emotionally abusive if nothing else. She starts to see a therapist and that’s around the time that she starts cheating on Scott.
- Anna, the third narrator, is Tom’s wife…as in Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband. Anna is a conniver and very manipulative. She’s also just incredibly catty. The chapters she narrates primarily involve her talking badly about Rachel. Granted it would be annoying to have your husband’s ex calling at all hours of the night while drunk but she acts like she’s better than everyone, a trait that drives me crazy. She knows what to say to get Tom on her side – at least she thinks she does.
Rachel was black-out drunk the night of Megan’s disappearance and she was in her old neighborhood, where Megan & Scott and Anna & Tom still live. She feels like she witnessed something happening but can’t piece the tiny memory fragments together. She was attacked that night but has no recollection of who hit her or why, and she spends the whole book trying to piece it together. She makes friends (and enemies) with Scott and severs any shred kindness remaining between herself and Anna and Tom.
The whole story is told in glorious detail from the differing points of view of these terrible women. (The men aren’t great people either – they just aren’t narrators.) While Rachel is in a downward spiral most of the book, Megan’s life started to look up (before she was killed) and Anna is mostly on an even keel, though completely bored. With all the twists and turns, I honestly had no idea who was guilty until very far into the book and even then I didn’t have any idea why the murder was committed.
Verdict: Quite enjoyable and well-written! The Girl on the Train is a book I hope to forget so that I can read it and be surprised all over again! I borrowed this from the library but may need to buy a copy for my Kindle.
Recommended for: anyone who enjoyed Gone Girl, though these are quite different stories, and fans of Hitchcockian storytelling.