The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
It’s on top of all the bestseller lists on both sides of the Pond and far beyond, as well. You’ve seen it in every bookshop window. It’s incessantly compared to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Dreamworks already claimed it for the big screen last year even before it hit shelves last month! So if you’re going to read it, do so sooner than later before Hollywood changes the ending (again). Better yet, stick it in your ears because the three voices here are almost superb – ‘almost’ because yet another lazy producer/director neglected to tell each of the actors to add an accent or not add an accent, but don’t do both! Yes, the single ethnic character – a Bosnian Muslim genocide survivor – has an accent when one actor reads, but doesn’t when another follows. Really?!
Thankfully, former journalist Paula Hawkins’ debut novel is so riveting that the momentary annoyances between accent vs. no accent chapters won’t detract too much from her deceptive plotting. Yes, indeed, you’re about to meet three of the most unreliable narrators I’ve come across in a very, very long time. Believe nothing … although you’re more likely believe everything. Hawkins is surely convincing.
Rachel, the eponymous ‘girl on the train,’ is not happy with her dreary life. She’s renting a room from a sort-of-friend. She misses her ex-husband who’s already married to someone else. She’s drowning her sorrows far too often, and she’s gotten herself trapped in her own wallowing. Rather than face her woes, she’d rather make up stories about others: as she rides the train to her London job each weekday morning, her gaze always lingers with ‘Jess’ and ‘Jason,’ a beautiful young couple she regularly glimpses from afar, about whom she can create a contented reality so different from her own. And then one day, what she sees propels her into a situation she never, ever imagined could happen.
Rachel sees ‘Jess’ kiss someone who’s not ‘Jason.’ ‘Jess’ turns out to be Megan – and ‘Jason’ is actually Scott. They’re neighbors of Rachel’s ex Tom and his new wife Anna. Suddenly, Megan’s gone missing. And Rachel knows more than anyone could have ever realized – including herself.
The three women alternate chapters, with Rachel and Anna telling their sides of the story as combative wives, while Megan begins in the past as she tries to catch up to the present. Just who are you going to believe …?
Newbie she may be, but Hawkins can absolutely, convincingly tell one whopper after another. Even if you happen to be an expert thriller solver, that whodunnit detail is just a small part of this eerie challenge. Three wives, two husbands, three babies, and one good doc just trying to his job … heaven help them all.