Contains Spoilers- Nothing huge
Firstly, I recommend this book, so I’ve copied the synopsis in. If it sounds interesting, don’t read this blog, get yourself a copy.
EVERY DAY THE SAME.
Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens.
She’s even started to feel like she knowsthe people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life-as she sees it- is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s long enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see: she’s much more than just the girl on the train…
The Girl on the Train reminds me quite a bit of The Kind Worth Killing, which I wrote about on here late last year. They each use different characters and thus convey different view points of the characters. This a very nice way to create a story, I love the depth and mystery that this creates. As with The Kind Worth Killing I found myself craving a certain character, not that any of the characters were boring. That character is the main character, Rachel. Rachel is somewhat unusual for a main character, I guess it’s expected that the leading character of any story is charasmatic. I actually pitied poor Rachel, it’s hard not to pity a weak drunk. All the way through I would think ‘oh, Rachel…’ Oh, Rachel, you’re such a mess. Oh, Rachel, don’t do that again! Oh, Rachel, don’t start drinking.
This story is written in first person, using the present tense which in my opinion is tricky business. Whenever I have tried to write like this it never rolls off the tongue, it never flows. It’s hard not to keep writing, I did this, I did that: ‘I punched the fat man in his podgy stomach. I laughed as he doubled over gripping onto his rolls of fat. I casually walked away as he wheezed and whined.’ I, I, I. When it works though, it’s fine and I can’t say that I noticed any blunt writing. It flowed well.
The story starts and Rachel is on the train to work, she becomes fixated on some clothes aside the railway track. Shortly after and during the same train journey we learn of Rachel’s odd interest in a couple that live in a house on her journey to work, beside the track. The train stops daily outside houses, near number 15. I suppose there is nothing particularly odd about creating fictional lives for people that you observe on your dull journey to work. There’s nothing special about that, afterall we don’t share all of our thoughts with people for fear of sounding bat-shit-crazy. And more importantly the shear volume of thoughts each day, we’d struggle to even get it all down on paper. The odd thing here is how much she thinks about these fictional lives of real people, Jess and Jason, are her names for them. Rachel clearly lives inside her head and this is a key part of her character. What makes a woman in her 30’s live so deeply in her thoughts? What’s really interesting is that none of your first few questions will be answered from the start. There is no transparent overview of who Rachel is. Hell, we don’t even know what she looks like until much later on. All you get is each characters current thoughts, yes they can sometimes be thinking about the past. You get glimpses of their lives and it only makes you hungry for more, particularly with poor Rachel. Who is this girl? Ah the impatience to know what happened in Rachel’s past… At the start we also learn that Rachel used to live a few doors down from her fictional, happy couple. Only this story is real and soul-destroying for Rachel. Her ex-husband and his new wife live there with their infant daughter. Rachel never recovers from her husband’s infidelity and new life. Her own life was snatched from her and there is very little left of her. What exactly happened to their marriage? I instantly wanted to know more, I wanted to go back in time and see what exactly happened, how did poor Rachel cope…did she ever acutally cope? Seemingly not. On her journey’s home in the evenings Rachel is partial to a can of gin and tonic. Rachel is actually very susceptible to a drink. I always find this interesting, the life of a fictional alcoholic. In short, it means being one thing; a mess, and Rachel doesn’t disappoint there. As a result of the break-down of her marriage, Rachel lives with a sort-of friend Cathy; (poor) Rachel only has a small bedroom to herself. It makes you appreciate what you have in your own life, assuming you’re not in a similar situation. Though I pity her, I also wonder how she even has the strength to leave the house everyday. Imagine having nothing at all, no one, nothing to think about. She has her job? Does she? …Poooor Rachel!
Some nights after several drinks Rachel tries to contact her ex-husband, again. She wakes up checking her phone feeling realistically humiliated by her constant and obvious pain. What annoys me though is how apologetic she is towards Tom. I want to shake her. She’s so devoted to his happiness, despite his affair. To me, people are are worth no effort if they’ve ruined someone’s life like that.
We move on to other characters, the second being Megan, formerly known as Jess. Megan doesn’t interest me quite so much, she’s just a spoilt, self-centered, heartless brat. Basically Jess has the perfect, devoted husband but that’s not enough for her.
We also follow Anna, Tom’s current wife. So we see glimpses into the lives of Rachel, Megan and Anna. The novel is about the mysterious disappeanance of Megan, there is very little to go on though because Rachel was around, blind-drunk, on the evening that Megan went missing, Megan’s husband Scott had argued with her, Tom had been trying to get hold of Rachel for whatever reason and poor Rachel can’t recall a thing from that night. The moment we learn of Megan’s disappearance -and remember that Rachel couldn’t do that; remember- we are on the edge of our seats! Or I am anyway because I read it and I can’t assume you did. Ooh just what the hell happened here, Rachel!? What happened to Megan?
Winding back just a tiny bit, the day before Megan’s disappearance Rachel witnessed a stranger (a man that wasn’t Scott) kissing Megan in her garden, from her usual observational spot on the train. Rachel is outraged by the betrayal. She becomes obsessed with the disappearance. She starts by worrying of her own involvement, did she hurt her and black out? Afterall she can’t remember a thing. Rachel then believes that the mystery man killed her, she’s convinced and she has to help.
We continue to follow the lives of Rachel, Megan and Anna throughout. Rachel is a fantasist, the reasons for her obsession in the disappearance isn’t worded out for you. However, you can draw your own theory from knowing of her past and what her life is like. It’s not a happy story for Rachel, I felt terrible for her and slightly repellent of her at the same time. It must be so damaging to have your life ripped apart by the person you love, to be left with nothing, to watch him move on with another woman in your home. See, Rachel has nothing else to occupy her damaged mind. She drinks to cope and she fantasises to cope. I think she wants to do something good, she wants to be worth something again.
Anna reminds me of Megan, self-centered. She steals Tom from Rachel with no remorse. All the way through she just wants Rachel to leave them alone. I can’t help but think ‘Why should she, you vile bitch!’ The thought of it made me angry. I think Rachel has every right to be an unstable mess. She has every right to be bat-shit. She’s been utterly broken…
The main problem isn’t about what a bitch Anna is though, it’s about what happened to screwed-up Megan. Is she alive? If not, who killed her? Did Rachel do something horrific in her drunken state? Or maybe…just maybe… it was someone else…
There are no short-falls; there’s not a page that drags. It flows well. It’s all interesting. I was a happy, impatient viewer of Rachel’s mundane life, kept captivated by mystery surrounding the disappearance of Megan.
I’d love to find more novels similar to this.