Comparable to a Hitchcockian thriller, “Girl on the Train” is full of twists and turns that will make it nearly impossible to put down. From first-time thriller writer and 15-year journalist Paula Hawkins, this novel has questionable characters, all with their own enigmatic motives. Narrated by three unreliable sources, Rachel, Megan and Anna, the book leaves the reader wondering who they can really trust.
Rachel is an unemployed drunk consumed by her recent divorce, torn by her husband Tom’s infidelity that resulted in the pregnancy of another woman. Anna (the other woman) is now married to Tom, living in the house that once belonged to Rachel.
The novel takes us along on Rachel’s daily commute as she rides the train from Ashbury to Euston. We witness most of her world through the train window or via flashback. Listening carefully to her inner monologue of routinely riding the train, to and from a job she was fired from, as she passes by the house she used to live in and the life she used to have. From the train window she not only sees her old residence, but becomes obsessed with a couple who lives just a few doors down. Naming the strangers Jess (whose name is actually Megan) and Jason (whose name is actually Scott), she imagines their lives. Idealising them to be a doctor and a fashion designer with the perfect relationship. She watches them from a distance as the train passes by their home, seeing how she wishes her life to be through them.
When Megan goes missing, after a domestic dispute, Scott finds himself on the suspect list. However, Rachel finds herself entangled into the investigation after being spotted stocking the neighbourhood on night of Megan’s disappearance. Rachel is left to wonder what she has done after coming home with wounds, covered in blood and unable to remember due to being blackout drunk.
This story is bleak, told by characters that you neither like or dislike, but rather understand how innately human they are. It is told with timelines that intersect and are quite haunting at times. It is a realistic story in the sense that characters are driven by impulse and face consequences for their bad decisions. “Girl on the Train,” is a fantastic thriller that works towards reinventing the genre. It is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of mystery or suspense. I give “Girl on the Train” 4.5 out of 5. Hopefully, the upcoming film does this book justice.