Book Reviews

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

April 7, 2013

The_Girl_on_the_Train

I’m a little late to the bandwagon with this one, since it was the first choice for the new Loose Women book club over a month ago and has received a lot of attention since then. But better late than never! I’d definitely recommend this book to fans of Gone Girl (whether you’ve read the book or seen the film) and anyone who likes reading mysteries or thrillers.

In a nutshell, The Girl on the Train is about a regular train passenger Rachel, who passes by the same house every day on the same train, morning and evening. Most days she catches a glimpse of the couple that live in the house, whether they’re in the garden eating breakfast or making coffee in the kitchen, just beyond the patio doors. Rachel had doors exactly like those once, only a few doors down.

One morning Rachel discovers that the woman who she idly gazes at from the train carriage has been reported missing.  She tries to wrack her brains for any snippet of information that could help this poor woman – perhaps she saw something? But this proves to be a difficult task for an alcoholic, as Rachel can barely remember how she got into her own bed most nights.

And so begins a tangle of controversy, deceit, love, hate and instability, where the reader struggles to uncover the facts behind the disappearance through eyes often intoxicated by either alcohol or jealousy, or both. Rachel is like the crazy friend who no matter how hard you try, you just cannot persuade her to get her life back together.

She is an unreliable source (literally) so it’s natural as a reader to want to lean on the accounts of other characters to get the bigger picture. But as the novel progresses you begin to doubt your judgement, as not a single character is as straightforward as they seem. This is one of my favorite elements of the book, as the ability to define false impressions of characters is certainly not an easy feat.

There’s Megan – an innocent victim, kidnapped from her own home and most probably brutally murdered. But she’s also suspiciously damaged, if not a little unstable – far from the perfection that Rachel has formulated from the window of a train. And her husband Scott: a grieving, distraught widower or a violent, murderous husband? There’s Anna, a manipulative home-wrecker who will just about do anything to get what she wants. Until she realizes she was wrong about everything she thought was right. And there’s Tom, Rachel’s ex and Anna’s partner, a poor guy just caught in the wrath of two feisty females. Until page 278 when Rachel realizes:

“She’s not looking at me, but over my shoulder, and as I turn around to follow her gaze, I see him standing in the kitchen window, watching us.”

Creepy indeed. I think this novel has a great way of encompassing the phrase ‘things aren’t always as they seem’. It plays on our tendency to assume the worst and to revert to clichés wherever there’s an opportunity. It plays on the way we judge people’s characters from their past rather than their present, and how we can misinterpret actions so easily. And it plays on our ignorance – people may look happy or sad on the surface, but how well do you know exactly what’s going on around you? Sometimes it takes an outsider looking in to discover the truth