Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train

In the Acknowledgements to The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins is effusive about a long list of editors, which might seem par for the course in a debut novel, but it does make me wonder how much of a hand those editors had in the end product of a bestseller so heavily promoted as the next Gone Girl. At the level of plot there is little to connect the two novels and the only connections are The Girl in the Title and multiple unreliable first person narrators. Another marketing hook is to describe The Girl on the Train as the new Rear Window, but again there is little to connect those two plots beyond someone looking out a rear/train window.

If we leave the marketing hype behind in the sidings The Girl on the Train is an excellent thriller and well worthy of the prizes and plaudits is garnered. The main character and narrator is Rachel Watson, a woman with mental and alcohol problems whose life revolves around travelling on the train into London every day to pretend that she has not lost her job. In this reduced world she invests a lot of hope in a couple, Jess and Jason, she sees from train sitting in their back patio. Then one day she sees a man who is not Jason and shortly afterwards the woman she gave the name Jess to is announced as missing and called Megan. She went missing while Rachel was in the street where Megan lives, but she cannot remember anything from that night except falling and hurting her head. Rachel has memory issues as well as an alcohol dependency, but she had invested too much in the people she called Jason and Jess to let this go.

The novel then moves primarily to Megan's street, but does not take the predictable route of Rachel suddenly discovering that she is a great private detective. Instead the focus is on how she tries, and usually fails, to piece things together in her fractured mind. The Gone Girl connection (possibly courtesy of the editors) is that we also have chapters narrated by Megan, but from the period before her disappearance. The final narrator is Anne Watson, the new wife of Rachel's ex-husband, Tom. Megan's chapters are used to give the reader information about matters that Rachel knows nothing about, while Anne's chapters are mostly about her distrust and dislike of Rachel.

This is an excellent twists and turns thriller, so the review has to end at this point. I highly recommend reading The Girl on the Train and ignoring all reviews about it, including this one.

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