BLURB: “Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking, and in one moment everything changes. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see: she’s much more than just the girl on the train…”
REVIEW: It has taken me far too long to get around to reading this book, and at the point when my best friend finally offered to lend it to me I had actually just ordered it for my Mum as a Christmas present in a desperate attempt to slyly buy myself a new book without the guilt trip of buying myself a new book whilst I’m poor. I eagerly took up the offer, despite the fact that I could only read the book when my Mum was either asleep or out of the house, so that she wouldn’t ask to borrow it too and ruin her Christmas present. Reading a book like this at such a slow, fragmented pace is, let me tell you, absolute torture: because this book is fantastic.
‘The Girl on the Train’ introduces us to three female narrators; Rachel, Anna and Megan. Rachel is by far the protagonist of these three women, and also a hugely unreliable narrator; turning to alcohol after her failure to have children and the breakdown of her marriage to Tom, Rachel experiences frequent blackouts that often warp and twist her mind, causing her to either forget or misremember events that are crucial to the plotline. This is extremely frustrating for the reader, and worsens as Rachel becomes involved in the investigation into the disappearance of Megan Hipwell. Rachel has watched Megan for months, living in a house that can be clearly seen from Rachel’s train commute. Rachel had named Megan and her husband, Scott, Jason and Jess, and envied their lives from afar, building up a romantic image of the two from her perspective as the girl on the train. However, things begin to change when Rachel one day sees ‘Jess’ kissing another man inside her home while ‘Jason’ is away. Horrified by what she has seen, Rachel’s morbid fascination with the couple only deepens when ‘Jess’ – her real name now revealed to be Megan – disappears without a trace, putting her husband ‘Jason’ (now revealed to be called Scott) fully under suspicion. Determined to help, Rachel finds herself heavily involved in the investigation, scorned by the police but heavily relied upon by Scott, who believes her to be a friend of Megan’s with information crucial to the case. However, Rachel’s closeness to the case causes a stir; her ex-husband, Tom, whom she constantly seeks contact with, lives just a few doors away from Megan and Scott in their old marital home, with his new wife Anna and their baby daughter. Convinced that Rachel is stalking them and determined to harm their baby, the reader is unsure whom to trust or where the real story lies as this fast-paced thriller takes so many twists and turns. It is difficult to say any more about the novel without giving away the ending, which I certainly do not want to do; the final twist is brilliant and makes the reader question both themselves and the theories that they have inevitably developed during the course of reading the book. Strangely, my favourite thing about the book was the fact that none of the three narrators are particularly reliable – or, indeed, particularly likeable. Rachel, at least initially, comes across as a pathetic, weak voyeur and potential stalker whose lack of memory and dependence on alcohol becomes frustrating and often seems to slow the story down. Anna and Megan are both cheats, though in different ways; Anna had an affair with a married man, and Megan is a married woman having an affair. Both of these women also appear to be spoilt and self-centered, and almost as unreliable as Rachel.
This is a fantastic book that kept me hooked from beginning to end. But a word of warning; as you are reading, don’t trust any of the narrators. And if you are a commuter like me then trust me, reading it before bed is not a particularly good idea; it certainly gave me the chills!