I am reluctant to jump on bestsellers; if everyone is reading them, they must be very mainstream and general, or simply the type everyone is being told is good. It happens with classics, too: People know it is supposed to be good, and therefore like it. (If you remember, Gone Girl was similar. In my opinion, the suspense built until the middle, then came the turning point and the second half is a very long epilogue.) So I stayed away from this particular book. However, when your favourite used book shop on the island recommends it, you have to give it a chance. And reading the blurb, it did sound good. Who doesn’t like a bit of people watching?
Rachel is unemployed and an alcoholic. She still rides the commuter train every morning and evening, to keep her flatmate from suspecting she got fired.
“I am not the girl I used to be. I am no longer desirable, I’m off-putting in some way. It’s not just that I’ve put on weight, or that my face is puffy from the drinking and the lack of sleep; it’s as if people can see the damage written all over me, can see it in my face, the way I hold myself, the way I move.”
On the train, she watches people, like we all do. We notice the man who always boards at the same station, with the same cup of coffee, or the woman who is always applying her makeup before heading into work. Rachel looks out, and sees the houses go past, imagining the lives lived inside them. Some she knows better than others: Jess, who she sees out in the garden with her husband. Rachel feels she knows everything about her. And of course, Tom and Anna and their little baby girl. Rachel certainly knows about them. After all, Anna lives in her house now, with her husband. She can see Anna and her baby from the train, and glimpse into her old garden, her old house, her old life.
“They’re what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.”
Watching people is one thing, but when Jess disappears, just after Rachel sees her with another man, she needs to get involved. Who was the man she saw Jess with? Suddenly, she isn’t watching anymore, but getting to know the real people behind the characters she imagined in her head: Scott, and his missing wife Megan.
Rachel can help, but who will believe a drunk? All the police see is a woman who drinks in the middle of the day, and who her ex-husband and his new wife have described as unstable and obsessed. But Rachel knows she is more than that; at least she used to be. And this is her chance to help someone.
“It’s ridiculous, when I think about it. How did I find myself here? I wonder where it started, my decline; I wonder at what point I could have halted it. Where did I take the wrong turn?”
The Girl On The Train
By Paula Hawkins
First published January 2015