“The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps,” thinks Rachel, the main character of a book by Paula Hawkins tilted The Girl on the Train. The quote perfectly describes the tone of this book –a gloomy story that tangles painful truths of a woman’s life. The Girl on The Train, a psychological thriller, was released in 2015 and instantly became a New York Times best seller. Due to a huge success, it was adapted into the movie, but it was not praised as much as the book. The story is told from three women’s point of view – Rachel’s (mainly), Anna’s, and Megan’s. The story is distorted by unreliable narrators and time jumps that keep the readers guessing who committed the murder of Megan.
The story starts and is mainly told through the eyes of Rachel – a recently divorced woman in her mid-thirties who became an alcoholic after her husband Tom left her for another woman. It is summer of 2013, Rachel travels each morning and evening with a train to and from London. Her favourite activity is to observe houses and wonder about the life of others. She starts noticing a wonderful marriage of two strangers, Megan and Scott, in a house which is next to the one she and Tom used to live in. One night after getting into a fight with Tom, drunk Rachel decides to visit his house. There is one problem – Rachel never remembers what happens while she is intoxicated. The next morning, she wakes up in a room she rents with a bloody wound on her head, dirty clothes, and a hangover. She soon hears that Megan, the woman she was secretly observing, was murdered. Throughout the story Rachel tries to remember what happened that strange night and learns secrets about Megan and Scott, her ex-husband Tom, and his new wife Anna. The climax of the story reveals who killed Megan who was pregnant but not with her husband’s baby.
The story is written in first person resembling diary entries from Rachel, Anna, and Megan. Rachel is the main narrator of the story, while Anna adds crucial details about Rachel and Tom’s divorce, and Megan travels back in time giving the reader details about her potential murderer and the motive. The writer uses one of my favourite techniques called unreliable narrators – untrustworthy storytellers who are deceptive or misguided and force the reader to question their credibility. All three women remember details from their own point of view and it can be seen how they differ in all of their stories. This is one of the reasons which kept me engaged in the story until the end – no one knows what the real truth is and what parts of the story are correct. The narrative always twists and turns without prediction and even the smallest details change the plot significantly, which was extremely interesting and gripping.
My favourite character was the main narrator, Rachel, because she is relatable to many readers. The reader quickly learns that Rachel started drinking after she could not become pregnant and that is one of the reasons why Tom left her. Rachel is a curious person who just wants to be loved, but various life failures got her in a depressive state. The disappearance of Megan, a women Rachel wants to be, is the most intriguing event she encountered in years and truly affects her outlook on life. Her random memories from events she encountered when intoxicated kept me turning pages because she revealed crucial pats of the mystery. I loved that the story not only focused on the mystery, but also on a life of a woman – motherhood issues, relationship struggles, and self-exploration in a judgmental society. The only problem – sometimes the narrative felt too elongated. Some plot lines offered no stimulus to the story and could have been avoided. Although, the narrative was never confusing and despite many details and characters – everything made sense.
I would recommend this book to psychological thriller lovers and women in various ages in order to understand the life of various females. I truly liked this book, could not put it down and read it in several days. The plot line is captivating, every detail adds to the story, and the writer’s manner of writing somehow brings suspense but soothes the reader at the same time. The writer was able to trick me into thinking that I know who the characters are but unexpected events revealed the true colours of them. The book makes you question your own choices and lifestyle and brings us to an important conclusion – what you see and presume is never the full truth. There are many important claims and observations made by each woman from which everyone can learn. The last observation from me – go and read the book.