Gillian Flynn’s phenomenal novel Gone Girl launched an era of strong female characters caught in convoluted lies, poisonous relationships, and deadly rage. Who would have thought that women’s unpredictability and idea of vengeance would make for phenomenal and bestselling fiction. For some time, the ripples it brought , would make us think that there’s nothing new to be offered after its success. Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, presents something similar but with a fresh, creative edge on the domestic suburban noir
With its nasty characterization, complex web of narratives, and new take on the overused amnesia thriller, Hawkins’ debut novel is something one shouldn’t miss out! Its twists and turns show the author’s great skill for weaving suspense, making the readers ache for the much-awaited final resolution.
The Girl on the Train expertly alternates between the narratives of three women, each with a distinct personality, but whose lives tragically intertwine in the story: Rachel, Megan, and Anna.
Our main narrator is Rachel, who is unfortunately an unreliable one due to her alcoholism, episodes of blackout, and weak personality. The story starts with her as the daily mundane train ride to London stops briefly along the way on a worn track behind the rows of Victorian homes where she used to live with her ex-husband Tom. Although Tom still resides there, he’s sharing it with his new wife Anna, whom he left Rachel for, and their baby.
While the train idles on that section of the track, she diverts her misery and attention to another house, four rows from her old one on Blenheim Road. Rachel creates a fantasy tale for the attractive young couple who live there, whom she calls Jason and Jess. Everyday, on the train ride to her so-called “work”, she obsessively makes up stories about Jason and Jess while observing them on their terrace.
While Rachel is daydreaming about the couple’s perfect lives, Megan, who Rachel knows as Jess, tells a story far too different from what Rachel fancies. She herself has a dark secret that once out in the open, could cause a terrible consequence.
One day, a news broke out that Megan goes missing. Having witnessed something strange in the lawn the day before Megan’s disappearance, Rachel believes she can crack the mystery with what she saw on that fateful train ride to London. Not only that, but Rachel eventually found out that she was on Blenheim Road, drunk and unsure of the events, the night Megan believed to have vanished. However, the police don’t really believe her, having known her drinking habits and blackouts, as well as her peculiar involvement with the couple in house number 15.
Through a series of bad decisions and unfortunate events, mostly fuelled by alcohol and childlike behavior, Rachel found herself seemingly trapped and involved in the case, making things worse than they should have.
Rachel is such a flawed character that you would have a hard time relating to her. She’s generally unattractive, overweight, spiteful, miserable, and a sack full of excuses for maintaining her alcoholic lifestyle. Who would root for an adult who still wets herself and leaves vomit to rot on the stairs. However, you would not want to leave her side as the mystery unfolds right before her eyes.
While Rachel is a hot mess, Megan is young and electrifying. An unattainable figure that casts a shadow over Rachel’s laughable existence. Anna, on the other hand, is sexy and desirable as she is shallow and mean. Yet, these established identities by Hawkins, have been set to be shattered as we discover more of the characters’ secrets.
As these secrets reveal themselves, we see the ugly side of the fantasies Rachel creates in her mind at the beginning of the novel. We see the anti-heroine Megan, whose anger and sadness, would urge her to become manipulative and secretive. This is only an example of the many discoveries readers will know about the characters of the story, including the men, who themselves have issues of their own.
The thing that amazes me was how Hawkins drip-fed inconsequential details to the reader without the reader being aware that they are actually significant in the big picture. They’re so subtle that you would be amazed by its precision as the reader piece them out together in the end.
But the novel is not all sprinkles and rainbows. Although it’s cleverly crafted to mount suspense chapter by chapter, the climax may appear less glamorous to readers who are true fans of the thriller genre and whose taste might have evolved to crave for more blood and spine-chilling peak.
Still, the The Girl on the Train is an absorbing read. The book will propel you to want to finish it in one sitting. Like the train hurtling on its tracks at rapid speed, the story roars through that one cannot help but turn the pages to arrive at a promising ending.
“There’s nothing so painful, so corrosive, as suspicion.”
― Paula Hawkins,
Title: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Published: January 13, 2015, Riverhead Books, US
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Thriller