Most novels that suddenly gain a surge of attention are not worth reading. However, it is glaringly obvious that sometimes a novel CAN live up to the hype it causes. I tested this theory on The Girl On The Train. The Girl On The Train was a hit last summer, seemingly coming out of nowhere. This the first Thriller by the author Paula Hawkins.
Rachel takes the same 8:04 train every day, commuting to and from London, sipping her gin and tonic out of a can. Along the way she passes a line of cosy suburban homes. Glancing out the window at the stop sign, each day she glimpses into the lives of a couple, who she has named “Jess and Jason”. They have a picture perfect life-or so she imagines- and she likes to watch them, partly because she cannot bare to look a couple doors down to Number 23 Blenheim Road. The road where she used to live. Where her ex-husband and new girlfriend, new child now live. This is where the novels plot gets interesting. On a Friday morning Rachel sees another man “kissing” Jess and the next evening she is reported missing.
On the same Saturday Rachel drunkenly arrives at Bleheim Road and the next morning can not remember a thing. Has she played a vital role in the disappearance of her ‘Jess’ who is later identified as Megan Hipwell. The novel follows Rachel trying to establish what happened the night she was blacked out and quickly becomes a thriller which explores strained and dark relationships, jealousy, betrayal and flawed personalities.
The biggest intrigue that sustains you throughout this novel is the main narrator, Rachel. She is an alcoholic, a flawed narrator who suffers from blackouts. To be frank she is not the nicest person, obsessively calling her ex husband drunk and constantly lying to those around her like her Mom and in particular, her flatmate Cathy. However as the novel progresses, in spite of all this, as a reader, you want her to find out the truth. Perhaps this is because the majority of the narrative stems from her point of view: or the fact that her character is so cleverly written by Hawkins that for all Rachel’s flaws we can not help but believe her intuition when she feels something is not right. Or perhaps it is because Hawkins thriller focuses on five main characters, all of whom have lied at some point and have deep rooted issues, which act as a predominate character feature. There is Rachel, the seemingly mad alcoholic: No job, no real friends or ties with the outside world. Anna, the woman who gets thrills from having an affair and Megan who is unstable, with a hidden past which triggers the events of the novel.
Though perhaps the most terrifying focus of the novel is the portrayal of the male characters. Unlike the women, who Hawkins makes clear that are flawed from the start, the men are treated differently. When the novel begins, we are given the impression that Tom (other than having an affair) is a sympathetic man who put up with all the harassment a drunken Rachel gives him. Right until almost the very end I was convinced that he was the only character in the novel with some sort of a ‘normal’ life. That is what made the shock that *SPOILER ALERT* Tom was the murderer even more terrifying. He seems to be the only one I was rooting to have a happy ending throughout the novel. Which perhaps illustrates the genius of Hawkins’s writing. At the beginning Scott’s character seemed to be that of a mournful husband. However throughout the novel cracks in his personality started to appear, commencing in his attack on Rachel and locks her in a room.
One of the major themes running throughout the novel is betrayal. Betrayal which is conducted at some point by almost all the characters. Rachel’s ex husband’s betrayal of cheating on her with Anna. Tom’s betrayal of Rachel, as it is revealed that unlike the perfect husband that is portrayed at the beginning of the novel, he is eventually found out to be a sociopathic liar, using Rachel’s alcoholism to cover his disturbing nature.
The Girl On The Train gripped me from the beginning, and once I thought I had figured out who was guilty, or who I did not like, the pace of the narrative along with my conclusions quickly changed. Non of the characters are particularly likeable, but somehow the story is still emotionally gripping. I cannot wait to read Hawkins’s next novel, and this time I won’t wait until the fuss has died down to read it!