Paula Hawkins’ psychologically astute thriller The Girl On the Train is getting a lot of publicity and good reviews. I was impressed too, loving the twists and turns, the Rear Window-ish momentary slices of life in the gardens and houses the train rattles past and the various unreliable narrators.
Rachel catches the same commuter trains into London every morning and back home again in the evening. Looking out the window she catches (snatches?) glimpses of people and their lives, amusing herself by creating stories about them. She is particularly interested in the backs of the houses the train stops at everyday, waiting for a signal. She has given the couple at number 15 names, occupations and a lovely back story. She knows this particular house is number 15, it is just down the row from number 23, where she lived with her husband. He still lives there, with a new partner and baby.
Very much on the edge, deeply unhappy and drinking too much, Rachel sees something in one of the back gardens which shocks her. When one of the characters in her daydreams goes missing she has to tell the police who dismiss her as an unreliable witness both because of the drinking and her own obsessive past behaviour. Hawkins keeps us guessing about how much we can trust Rachel and her ideas about what she thinks she has seen, actually, she keeps Rachel, who often cannot remember anything after a drinking binge, guessing too. As for almost all the other characters, sometimes they too are unreliable, frightening and disturbing – or is this just Rachel’s messed-up view of the world?
Clever and chilling, I had to read this in one go, it is really gripping and very well written. People are comparing it to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, it is from the same dark domestic noir stable but I think The Girl on the Train may have the edge.