Hardcover, 384 pages.
Release date: January 15th 2015.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
To everyone else in this carriage I must look normal; I’m doing exactly what they do: commuting to work, making appointments, ticking things off lists.
Just goes to show.
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and every evening. Every day she passes the same Victorian terraces, stops at the same signal, and sees the same couple, breakfasting on their roof terrace. Jason and Jess seem so happy together.
Then one day Rachel sees something she shouldn't have seen, and soon after, Jess disappears. Suddenly Rachel is chasing the truth and unable to trust anyone. Not even herself.
Tense, taut, twisty and surprising . . . The Girl on the Train creeps right under your skin and stays there.
With starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews and a soon-to-be-in-the-works movie, The Girl on the Train, the debut novel from former Journalist Paula Hawkins, is already one of the most buzzed about titles of 2015. Even before this book was published it was talked about in ‘hottest fiction auction of the summer’ terms and you know that those eye-roll inducing words ‘next Gone Girl’ have been mentioned somewhere along the lines, too. This kind of hype can make or break a book for me, and it's often true that when a book attracts this much pre-publication buzz, it’s hard to live up to all that publisher acclaim. Especially for a debut.
But The Girl on the Train is no ordinary debut. As for living up to all that pre-publication buzz – this book has no problems on that front either.
An astutely written, intensely gripping page-turner, The Girl on the Train introduces us to Rachel, who is not so much a girl, but a divorced thirtysomething, who has never gotten over the fact that her marriage, to Tom, didn’t work out. These days, Rachel’s life is empty; her only solace the copious amounts of alcohol she drinks to numb her pain, to help her forget what a mess her life has become. Worse still, Rachel’s daily commute rubs salt in the wounds of her failure; each day on her way to and from work, she has to pass the house she lived in with her ex-husband; a house he now shares with his new wife and adorable baby girl. What’s a girl to do, but, like Rachel, reach for another gin in a tin, right? But Rachel isn’t so much a character you’ll identify with as she is a complete and utter mess and a really messy drunk at that; someone you’d avert your eyes from, if say, you happened to be sitting next to her on a train.
Rachel drinks to escape from the awful reality of her broken-down life, but she also forms a daydream world where she passes away the time on her commute; a world populated by two: a perfect couple who live a few doors down from her old home, and who Rachel sees in passing from time to time. This sneak peek into the seemingly perfect life of others, brightens Rachel’s very existence. She starts to feel like she knows these people. She gives their relationship a backstory, and she even gives them names - Jason and Jess -perfectly alliterative names for this perfectly paired couple. The reality is, of course, that nobody is perfect, and that goes for Jason and Jess too. One day, Rachel sees something shocking, something she never could have imagined happening in the perfect world of Jason and Jess, and the next she learns that Jess, or rather, Megan, which is her actual name, is missing.
Soon Rachel finds herself immersed in the missing person’s case of Megan Hipwell. Soon, she discovers that maybe she’s in too deep. Soon after that, she realises that maybe there’s no way out.
Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is one book that will keep you flipping the pages late into the night. With three narrators in the form of Rachel, Megan and Anna (Rachel’s ex-husband’s now wife) this book is as intricately plotted as it is thrilling. It might keep you guessing till the end, and then again it might not (I guessed what was going on pretty early on) but it is nevertheless a truly addictive book with shades of Hitchcock, shades of S.J. Watson’s Before I go to Sleep, and yes, I’ll say it, shades of Gone Girl too. Since reading Gone Girl, I’ve read a lot of books in my search for the ‘next’. The Girl on the Train is the book that has come closest to that page-turning thrill-ride for me.