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December 29, 2016 / ljbradburn-Smith

The Girl on The Train

It’s been awhile since I stayed up way way past my bedtime reading a book because I just had to know how it ended. These days tiredness usually wins out and, short of propping my eyes open with matchsticks, not much can keep me awake once my head hits the pillow.

The Girl On the Train, however, changed that. The premise alone, of a commuter witnessing a shocking event in a stranger’s back garden, was enough to get me hooked. I’m a sucker for a psychological thriller and this novel promised drama, mystery and a plot twist to rival Gone Girl and it didn’t fail to deliver.

The novel is told through the eyes of three female protagonists, Rachel, Anna and Megan.

Rachel’s daily train commute takes her right past Anna and Megan’s track side houses, which are just doors apart. At the start  of the novel we see her immersed in her imaginings of how the other two live their lives, gleaned from her brief daily glimpses in to their back gardens.

However, the reader quickly learns that Rachel has a history with the residents in one of the houses, where she herself used to live with her ex-husband, Tom, who left her for Anna. Rachel’s jealousy and anger towards Anna and Tom still impacts massively on her life and it is clear that she is struggling to move on.

Megan, however, exists, for Rachel, purely in her imagination where she resides in blissful matrimony with her loving husband ‘Jason’. That is until the night that Megan goes missing, which just so happens to be the same night that Rachel decided to get blind drunk and pay her ex and his new wife a visit. With a hangover that seems to last days and an unshakeable feeling that she holds the key to what happened to Megan, Rachel sets about desperately trying to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

Through these three women, who are different in age, circumstance and happiness, we see the story unfold. As the plot moves seamlessly between the past and the present, it becomes apparent that Rachel, Anna and Megan’s stories are linked in ways they would never have dreamed of.

Hawkins does a great job of keeping the reader in the dark, whilst dropping just enough hints to make you feel like a world-class detective when you start to piece the story together. Each puzzle piece that fell in to place felt like a small victory that had me reading on to find out if I was in fact as talented at solving crimes as I felt I was.

The author also plays around with the idea of unreliable witnesses and misinterpreted situations which I found interesting in terms of character development and knowing who to trust. In particular Hawkins explores issues surrounding alcoholism and subsequent memory-loss as well as the extent that some people will go to manipulate situations to benefit themselves. The characters she creates were successful in stirring up emotions ranging from empathy to disgust and whilst i’m less than convinced I would like to spend time with any of them, if they were real people, I found them compelling enought to want to read through the night to see how their stories ended.

Claustrophobic, addictive and page-turnery, this is a must for a late night read-a-thon.

 

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