I finally got around to reading Paula Hawkins bestselling novel The Girl On The Train, and it has seriously made me wonder why I don’t read thrillers more often. The only two I’ve read in ages have been this one and Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson, and both of them have been absolute page-turners!
Rachel Watson travels on the same train to London every day. Every day she passes the house where she used to live with her ex-husband Tom, and where he nows lives with the woman he left her for and their baby daughter. But Rachel often finds herself watching a house a couple of doors down instead. To her, the house’s occupants seem like the perfect couple: young and beautiful and madly in love. She names them Jess and Jason and imagines what their perfect life must be like…that’s until she sees something shocking as she watches from the train. And when she sees on the news not long after that Jess (actually called Megan) has gone missing she is plunged into the centre of her perfect couple’s lives and finds that everything is not as it seems…
To me, one of the best things about this book was the complexity of the characters. I know a lot of people have taken issue with this book because all of the female characters are pretty much portrayed as messed-up and selfish, but I personally thought that the same could be said of most of the male characters too.
The fact that most of the characters are fairly unlikable in a lot of ways was actually a surprisingly positive thing about this book. As this is a psychological thriller it was interesting to get into the heads of people you just couldn’t really relate to, yet were profoundly human and flawed, and I did find myself feeling genuinely sorry for them, particularly Rachel as she is caught up in a cycle of obsession and addiction. I haven’t read a book before with a main character quite like Rachel, so it made for an interesting change of pace, however frustrating it is to see her repeatedly make the same mistakes and miss the things that are right in front of her face.
Of the three women’s narratives presented in the books I felt that Anna’s was the least necessary: it didn’t add a huge amount to the plot, although it was interesting to get her perspective considering how much of the book you spend hating her on Rachel’s behalf. Whilst she didn’t necessarily become likeable through her own narrative, her actions were at least explained.
I seemed to absolutely fly through this book as the pace was fast, and the mystery of what had happened to Megan kept me intrigued and anxiously turning the pages. I know a lot of people have called this book predictable, and to an extent I agree: by the time I was a good two-thirds of the way through the book I was pretty certain I knew what had happened, and who was responsible (and I had had suspicions for quite a while before that!). This didn’t really ruin my enjoyment of the book though, but I can see why it might do for others.
I really don’t know what took me so long to get round to reading The Girl On The Train, as it was as gripping and intriguing as I had heard. I don’t generally read thrillers which is maybe what had held me back, but I really enjoyed this one, and it really does make me want to read some more (so any recommendations would be welcomed!). The plot was tight and fast-moving and the characters were convincing as real, flawed human beings, however frustrating and at times unlikable they were. If you’ve been putting this one off like I had, I really do recommend getting to it soon!