“I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.”
The new rising star of domestic thrillers, The Girl on the Train is often branded by publishers as the next Gone Girl. The story of three women whose lives are all interlinked and leaves you not knowing who to trust as we explore their tragic lives.
The main protagonist of the novel is Rachel. Divorced, alcoholic, and recently sacked from her job, she still takes the same commuter train into London every day to keep up appearances. It’s on these journeys that she is forced to pass the home she once shared with her ex-husband Tom, now occupied by his new wife Anna and their baby. Instead of fixating on her previous home, she draws her attention a few doors down, to the house occupied by ‘Jess’ and ‘Jason’. In Rachel’s mind, Jess and Jason are the perfect couple with the perfect lives, and everyday when her train stops at the signal behind their house, she observes their interactions.
One day, Rachel witnesses something that colours the lives of Jess and Jason as less than perfect. A few days after that, a women goes missing, and we find out that it’s ‘Jess’ (who is actually called Megan).
The Girl on the Train is told from the perspective of the three central women of the story, Rachel, Megan and Anna, all of whom serve as the unreliable narrator. In Rachel’s case, it isn’t that she’s lying to the reader (none of them are, really), but the fact that when she gets drunk, she blacks out and physically can’t remember large chunks of time. Megan’s story is either told in flashbacks or in the perspective of others, and Anna is too preoccupied with her baby, pleasing her husband and hating his ex. Because of this, you can’t really trust any of the narrators, which leaves you guessing throughout the book.
Megan is arguably the most intriguing character, or at least the one with the most interesting story. Despite the fact that everyone in this book is terrible in one way or another, I found myself liking and sympathising with Megan the most. Unfortunately, her character is also the most underdeveloped due to the nature of her storyline, which is frustrating as she was the only one I really cared about. And then you have the likes of Anna, who only seems to care about her appearance and fat-shaming Rachel, constantly gloating about her affair with Tom and how she ‘won’. Anna’s character is extremely two-dimensional, and if we are purposefully meant to dislike, well, it worked.
I’m more on the fence with Rachel. On one hand, I feel bad for her. The love of her life ran away with another woman, she’s been driven by this compulsive urge to drink, and she’s having to hide her unemployment from her housemate in order to not look so pathetic. On the other hand, I want to shake her for acting so hopeless all the time, constantly drunk dialling her ex-husband and not being able to let go of anything. It’s a slippery slope, but I think having a character you don’t necessarily always root for is helpful to this story.
I’m probably the thriller writer’s dream reader, as I’m always completely clueless when it comes to plots that involves any kind of mystery. When reading things online about The Girl on the Train, I saw countless of smug people saying, I guessed the twist from very early on. Well bravo for them, but I didn’t clock on until the very last minute. While I was suitably compelled throughout the novel, I will admit that the last third of the book is where it becomes the most interesting. The beginning of the novel sets everything up, it’s where you get to know all the characters, but I would understand if anyone where to give up by the midpoint. The story does lag around halfway through, throwing some unnecessary red herrings and introducing new story lines that I didn’t particularly care for.
“It’s impossible to resist the kindness of strangers. Someone who looks at you, who doesn’t know you, who tells you it’s OK, whatever you did, whatever you’ve done: you suffered, you hurt, you deserve forgiveness.”
I gave The Girl on the Train 4 stars on Goodreads, however it’s more of a 3.75 in my books. Overall, it was pleasant reading experience and it’s peaked my interest in the domestic thriller genre – so watch this space.