The Girl on the Train – Review

Book: The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Year: 2015
Bookhad Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ (half)

Stories where the wife goes missing:

  1. The Zahir by Paulo Coelho
  2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  3. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

All three worth reading even though the trigger is somewhat the same. Somewhat. The Girl on the Train, the latest entrant in this list of mine isn’t at par with Gone Girl, but well, who doesn’t love some gorgeous pulp littered with shards of suspense? Everyone. No wonder most readers are lapping it up.

The Girl on the TrainWhile it starts slowly with Rachel, the mother of all unreliable narrators, being whiny as hell. (Sorry, but that’s what I thought.) She’s perpetually drunk and cannot remember what she feels, what she’s done and what she’s going to do. Every day, she takes the same train to London that she used to take to her workplace, where she no longer works. She has to keep up the facade so that her flat mate doesn’t have more reasons to mistrust her. Every day, on the train, she passes by a house which she keenly observes and imagines to be habited by a happy couple Jess and Jason. A few houses down is her own previous home and her ex-husband – both now belong to a woman who stole them from her. Rachel was cheated on by her husband Tom, fired from her job, and now is a raging alcoholic who stalks a house she sees from the train and is obsessed with Tom.

This house belongs to Megan Hipwell – Jess to Rachel, an unhappy wife to Scott who wants nothing more than to see Megan smile. But well, Megan isn’t happy. She is 29, a former owner of a gallery, and a stay-at-home wife who cannot bear children. And then, one day, Megan goes missing. Seeing this in the newspaper, Rachel decides to help the police given her obsession with Megan’s house and her observations of what happens in that house. She’s Rachel’s ‘Jess’ after all. However, the fact that Rachel is always drunk, her memories fazed and Tom’s current wife Anna extremely suspicious of her, no one takes Rachel seriously. No matter that Rachel had seen Megan with another man. No matter that Rachel was hit by someone while on her way home. No matter that Megan’s husband Scott locks Rachel in his house.

What ensues is a novel told from Rachel, Megan and Anna’s perspective. Three women who are connected to each other in distant ways, yet the disappearance of one of them makes life miserable for the other two. Rachel because she is convinced she knows something and keeps visiting Megan’s house. Anna because she detests the drunk Rachel turning up on her street and ruining the perfect family picture. As the story progresses, one starts to guess what happens now that it’s clear that Rachel does know something and one has to give her leeway.

As a reader, I found it really difficult to like Rachel. There’s no reason one must like her, but she’s the narrator, after all. However, for the sake of a missing woman, one wishes she’d finally stop her drunken escapades and actually help. Even I found it hard to believe Rachel after a while and also found it hard to sympathize with Megan. But here’s what I liked – how broken and wounded each character is. The novel is not about bad things happening to good people. I mean, the line is blurred anyway. But how these people with their flaws find themselves so devoid of rational judgment. And yes, about how some people are really evil and wreak havoc in live of the ones who love them. Not to pass missionary critique, but the end absolves the characters. And yet.

The Girl on the Train was read by someone in a recent Readathon in which I participated. Safe to say, you can polish it off quickly in a few hours and enjoy yourself. It’s no Gone Girl, but it has it’s own place in mystery fiction and now even the silver screen. Here’s a trailer of the movie in the offing. A drunk narrator. A missing woman. Two houses. A killer. What’s not to like?


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