We’ve all done it, some people call it spying or being intrusive but it is most often referred to as people watching. Seeing someone and wondering what kind of person they are, what they do for a living, if they’re married, what kind of life they live and so on. That’s exactly what Rachel, the protagonist of The Girl on the Train does. Rachel commutes to work on the same train line and passes a house that she can see from her train window that houses a young couple. Rachel has even given them names and a lifestyle. What if the lives of these elusive people suddenly plummeted into yours and were very different than what you had imagined? The Girl on the Train delves into when fantasy meets reality with the truth being more far-fetched.
Journalist and first time author, Paula Hawkins, weaves the tale of Rachel, a divorced alcoholic struggling to get her life back on track; which seems rather difficult as her ex-husband, Tom, and the woman he had an affair with, are raising their child in her old house down the lane. Rachel plants her daydreams of a simpler life upon the couple she sees from her train window on her commute every morning. However, when she learns that the woman she has been calling “Jess” in her daydreams is named Megan and is missing and presumed dead, Rachel feels somehow involved in the case.
Jess and Jason, as Rachel called the couple, are actually Megan and Scott, and while they are the young and attractive couple, she sees from a distance their story is not so carefree. The novel then switches its point of view and we learn of Megan before her disappearance. Megan, a bored housewife, once owned an art gallery and now spends her days wanting more. Her husband, Scott, all the while handsome and charming is rather invasive and has a mean streak. The novel switches once again to Anna, Tom’s paramour, and her life with him. While Anna’s life is idyllic with her baby and new husband, Rachel appears as an ever-growing threat and presence.
The story continues to switch specifically through the point of the view of the women and allows the reader to see through three very different character’s mindsets. Each character being deeply flawed and keeping the reader shrouded in mystery. Rachel, being an alcoholic, often blacks out and cannot remember major events, Anna is rather quick to judge and myopic, and Megan is flighty and secretive of her past. The three women, while living different lives, are all unknowingly linked to each other and are the key to solving the disappearance of Megan.
The Girl on the Train is a thrilling read, a page-turner that will occupy you till you finish it. Paula Hawkins’s journalistic skills can clearly be seen in the writing as it almost seems to have no time for poetic or flowery language and is rather direct and lackluster. It can also be a little confusing as the narrators switch often. Hawkins’s also wants to keep the reader in dark about so many things that at times it can be annoying and makes you want just skip to the end. Nonetheless it is obvious why this book has become a bestseller, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and will certainly have you entertained until the end.