The Girl On The Train
Transworld Publishers (Random House UK)
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rachel takes the same commuter train to work every morning. It’s a slow one, often stopping at the same signal for minutes at a time. Rachel watches a house that backs onto the tracks and the couple that live inside. In her head she’s named them Jason and Jess and she’s constructed a whole life for them. In the summer she watches as they sit on a makeshift terrace, sipping coffee.
Rachel tries to avoid looking several houses down from Jason and Jess’s house as that’s where she used to live. In the before. Before she started drinking so much she blacked out and woke up with gaps in her memories. Before she found out her husband Tom was having an affair. Before Anna moved in, with her growing belly.
One day a headline catches Rachel’s attention. Jess’s real name is Megan and she’s missing. And the night she went missing, Rachel was lurking around the area, trying to talk to Tom again. But she was very drunk and even though she thinks she might know something, she has to unlock it from her brain. There are things that aren’t adding up…but who is going to trust a drunk who can’t let her ex-husband go?
It seems like the publishing industry is always promising readers the next something. This one is marketed as Rear Window meets Gone Girl and I love the concept because I suspect that most people have a little Rachel in them. I don’t mean the drinking to excess (although some probably have that too) and the stalking the ex (ditto) but I think there are a lot of people out there, myself included, who have a bit of the voyeur. Rachel has seen a couple from the window of the train she takes every day and she’s constructed a whole life for them. She’s given them names (Jason and Jess), created careers for them, imagines what they get up to when they’re in other parts of the house where she can’t see them. She’s come to believe in them, feel like she knows them. In Rachel’s head, Jason and Jess are real people, almost like friends.
Rachel has been on a downward spiral for years now with the ending of her marriage. She was already drinking before the end of it but now she just drinks more. She rents a room from her friend Cathy, who prides herself on her niceness but Rachel is testing even that with her behaviour. She drinks on the way home from work on the train, she drinks during the day. When she’s not thinking about Jason and Jess, she’s thinking about Tom. She leaves countless messages on his mobile, she calls the house repeatedly and in the middle of the night, she goes around there and stands in the street and has, on occasion, made more of a nuisance of herself than that. Rachel does and says a lot of things that she cannot remember and even though as a reader you feel sorry for her for the demise of her marriage, there’s no denying that quite frankly, Rachel is an absolute mess and at times warrants more disgust than pity. And yet there’s clearly something in her mind, just on the fringes, that Rachel cannot access. At times I feared for her wellbeing, like on the night she’s out near the train station closest to Jason and Jess (really named Scott and Megan) and all she has the next mornings are bruises, an injury on her skull that looks like she’s been deliberately hit and the vague recollection of a guy with red hair grabbing her arm.
The Girl On The Train starts out with a glimpse into a dissolute and ruined life and inserts it into a mystery. The story gently guides you along in one direction before neatly presenting the first of many twists and turns. Chances are most people will figure it out before the end but sometimes, it’s not about the endgame. It’s about how you get there and I think that this book does a great job in constructing the story that takes you there. Rachel is so unreliable and so pathetic that you wonder just how she could possibly have the answer to what day it is, let alone much more than that. Told in three parts with points of view from Rachel, Anna and Megan, each of these characters are multifaceted and at times, utterly unlikable. Rachel should’ve moved away from the area when the marriage ended instead of taking the train every morning that takes her past her old house and allows her glimpses into her ex-husband’s new life. She definitely shouldn’t be calling, turning up, and on one occasion, going into the house. Anna gloried in her role as mistress and gave little to no thought to the woman that preceded her until she began to wonder if history was repeating itself. Megan has had a difficult past and she’s restless and reckless.
The Girl On The Train is an interesting look at relationships and how very rarely are they what they seem. Rachel has memories of her marriage with Tom, she has constructed a relationship for Jason and Jess that differs from the reality. Anna, likewise has perceptions of her relationship with Tom and believes that things are truly different for them. She blames Rachel and her drinking, feels pity for Tom and what he had to put up with. People believe what they want to about others and especially about themselves. Things are always different when it’s you.
This was a tight, enjoyable thriller that I had to read in a single sitting.
Book #11 of 2015