Five out of five? Nearly.
By r brassington, Aug 20 2015 11:00PM
So, I’ve just finished reading one of those books. You know, the one everyone is reading and if you don’t immediately rush out and buy a copy, you feel like the kid who never got to watch Jurassic Park at the cinema (that was me). I recently finished The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins and was pleasantly surprised – maybe not by the ending but by the pace of the book. I hate that I’m a slow reader, but these pages turned mightily easily.
It’s the story of Rachel, a once commuter slave, now fully fledged alcoholic making the pointless journey into London every day to an imaginary job, fooling herself and everyone around her. Taking the train, she travels by the house she used to live in, now inhabited by her ex-husband’s new wife and daughter. Fantasising about the glamorous couple living a few houses down, and watching the gardens from the train, she soon learns one half of the couple she’s been watching, the woman she names Jess, real name Megan, has gone missing, and right after Rachel sees her in the garden with another man.
Forcing herself into the investigation, to give herself purpose before discovering she’s more involved than she first believes, it’s a new twist on the unreliable narrator memory-loss thriller.
What I liked about it: the start. The way the author plays on the assumptions of the reader about Rachel’s life, about what’s really going on, about hidden lives of others we can only guess at was masterful. Revealed stealthily and carefully, a picture of the real Rachel emerges, and of her descent into depression and alcoholism. The shifting viewpoints were interesting and kept the pages turning.
What I didn’t like about it: for how different the three women of the story were, Megan, Rachel and her ex’s new wife Anna, in outlook and lives, the narration came across as incredibly similar. It would’ve been nice to see little quirks or phrases, to separate and cement their identities. I also wasn’t keen on the reveal of the twist. Distraction tactics are fine, but not when the author is trying to direct the reader down a road they know ends in a brick wall. It just doesn’t have that same slap-in-the-face-with a-red-herring feel.
It was a fun and fast read, written well. It may have been simple and to the point, but sometimes those are the hardest to write. It’s easy to get lost in prose and fluff and miss the whole point of the story; the story.