I found this a really interesting book to read.
I know The Girl on the Train has been around for a little while now. But I have only just gotten around to reading it and I wasn’t disappointed.
For me, the mystery part of the book was only the top layer. What I really enjoyed was the portrayal of Rachel.
Rachel was once a happy women in her own home with a lovely husband. Fast forward two years in the future and Rachel is an alcoholic living in her friend’s spare room while another women lives in her house with her now ex-husband and their baby.
It was the slow revelations of Rachel’s story that really grabbed my attention. That she had struggled to conceive and this drove her to depression and drink. How she was blacking out for periods and her husband would tell her how she’d attacked him.
This ultimately led to the break-up of their marriage when she finds out her husband has been having an affair and his mistress is pregnant. This drove Rachel over the edge. The one thing she wanted, a child, to be stolen away from her and her husband to leave her for another woman who has his baby was too much.
Rachel alienates herself from all her friends, especially those who have had children. She can’t stand to see other people’s happy families.
She also blames the break-up of her marriage on herself. He was perfect but she became the alcoholic who couldn’t let go of the idea of having baby.
We learn that she lost her job but pretends to go to work so her flat mate doesn’t find out. That she sits in parks or the library and drinks those pre-made gin and tonics before heading home to a couple of bottles of wine.
The mystery portion of the book is that a woman Rachel watches when the train she uses stops at a signal goes missing. This woman, Megan, lives a few houses down from Rachel’s old house where she lived with her husband.
Rachel watches Megan every day and discovers she is having an affair.
The night Megan went missing Rachel was at the train stop by Megan’s house. She was drunk and wanted to see her ex-husband. Rachel wakes up the following day covered in bruises with a blow to the head but no memory of what happened the night before.
Rachel is convinced she knows something about Megan’s disappearance but she can’t remember because she was drunk. She is also considered an unreliable witness by the police because she’s an alcoholic.
We learn about Megan and her troubled past and afuture that ultimately lead to her death through her own chapters. She is struggling to come to terms with the death of her beloved older brother when she was 15. This caused her to run away from home and sink into drugs and depression.
We also learn about Anna, the other woman. Anna is vindictive and desperate for Rachel to disappear so she can have her perfect life with her husband, Tom and their baby, Evie. She doesn’t care about Rachel’s feelings. She enjoyed being the other woman and blames Rachel for destroying her own marriage.
Slowly Rachel pieces together what happened during that night. She also starts to explore other thoughts about her past and her marriage. Everything is not as it seems with what happened between her and Tom and his life now.
The revelation that her ex-husband isn’t who she thought he was. That may be those black of periods she didn’t attack him. But rather he attacked her and then manipulated her. That he is in fact deceiving everyone around him and controlling those he holds closest.
It’s these details that really drew me into the book. The missing woman mystery that Rachel follows and leads to several of her revelations is merely extra for me. I find Rachel a totally real character. Her reliance on drinking and how the pressures to have a baby cause her to lose control are completely real.
I know this book has now been made into a film with Emily Blunt but I probably won’t watch it. One of the main reasons is that the film is set in New York not London. There is something essentially British in this book.
The train system of London. The houses right by the tracks. How Rachel hides her alcoholism in the socially acceptable bottles of wine after work and a few cans of gin and tonic on the way home. For me, this cannot translate cross-Atlantic and still convey the same message as the book. Also, the rich character building that is achievable in a book such as this just can’t translate onto the film scene.
The mystery is only a tool into seeing into the lives of Rachel, Megan and Anna. It is their struggles, feeling, hopes and dreams that make this book magnificent. It is the relatable and real way the characters are written that draws you in.
If you haven’t tried this already please give Girl on the Train a read and let me know what you think in the comments below!
Get it here: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins