Book Review

The girl on the train – Paula Hawkins

This book has been floating around the West Coast Writers’ Circle for a while and each time I wished to borrow it – it vanished! I eventually got around to buying my own copy only to have it sit on the “to be read” pile.

One evening I was searching for great opening lines amongst my library when I read the first paragraph, only to continue reading two to three pages. I had to curb myself from delving further for fear of forgetting my task at hand! This is a natural inclination when one sneaks a peek into this book.

The novel comprises of three perspectives. The main narrator is Rachel, an alcoholic lonely soul who commutes the same route daily by train. Her life has crumbled since her divorce from a man she still pines for. She lives with a friend who feels sorry for her, yet is exasperated by her unchanging behaviour. Rachel loves trains, feels comforted by them, soaking up the views at every stop. With an overactive imagination, she concocts her own reality prying into the homes of strangers.

Anna is the woman Rachel’s ex-husband left her for. She has everything – the man she stole and a daughter to cement their marriage. She lives on Blenheim Road in the same house Rachel had lived, close to the trains, which she abhors. She sees Rachel as a threat with her drunken calls and unexpected visits unsettling their perfect world.

Megan also lives on Blenheim Road. She is blond, beautiful and has a husband who adores her. Far from being happy, she initiates flings with men, searching for an escape from secrets that are tormenting her. She goes missing one night – the last person to have seen her was her husband after they’d had a massive row. Her body is found two weeks later washed up by torrential rains, any evidence at the crime scene lost. The police are desperate to find the killer and make an arrest.

The lives of these women become intertwined on that fateful night of Megan’s disappearance. Rachel was on a drinking spree finding herself on Blenheim Road. She recalls seeing Anna and her ex-husband but cannot piece together the events of the evening leading to her being bloodied and bruised. She’d blacked out, the memories out of her grasp. Although she’d never met Megan personally, she’d watched her from the train, believed she had the perfect marriage only to witness her kissing a stranger, crushing her illusion. She has a desperate desire to unravel the mystery of the murder, not realising the more she digs, the danger it spells for her.

The Author is spot on in her depiction of Rachel as an alcoholic. Her loss of dignity, self-loathing and loneliness is told in sobering clarity. The characters flaws, insecurities and unhappiness are painted in bold strokes. The story moves at an incredible pace, with twists and turns keeping the reader on tenterhooks. I thought I knew who the killer was only to be led down the wrong track. The denouement is chilling to say the least.

I found this book hard to put down. The authentic characters crept into my mind, the description of something as mundane as a train ride was brought to life through the Author’s vision and exceptional writing talent. The suspense, drama, hopelessness and tragedy unfolding kept me spellbound. A must-read five star rating from me 🙂

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