The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins is so good that you have to occasionally remind yourself that this is her debut novel. A fact that should have all mystery readers excited for what is to come!
Rachel rides the commuter train every morning, passing a stretch of suburbia she once belonged to. She watches the couples in their homes. One she knows too well and the other she dreams about. Her dream couple is Jason and Jess. They are idyllic. In love, young, attentive, with their whole lives ahead of them. The other couple are Tom and Anna and they are why her life is destroyed.
“..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 night last week, when I left my room to get myself a glass of water, I overheard Cathy talking to Damien, her boyfriend, in the living room. I stood in the hallway and listened. ‘She’s lonely,’ Cathy was saying. ‘I really worry about her. It doesn’t help, her being alone all the time.’ Then she said, ‘Isn’t there someone from work, maybe, or the rugby club?’ and Damien said, ‘For Rachel? Not being funny, Cath, but I’m not sure I know anyone that desperate…”
Rachel was married to Tom once. Then Anna came along and then the baby and Rachel was left. Tossed aside. For a younger, prettier, fertile version of herself. Now every morning, as she rides the train. She watches as she passes by their lives; going on. Passing her by. But truth be told, Rachel doesn’t always just pass by. Sometimes she gets off. Sometimes she goes to Tom and Anna’s home. Angry. Hurt. Drunk. But then, Rachel is always drunk now. Drunk and broken. With a memory missing large chunks from it.
“…One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl…Three for a girl. I’m stuck on three, I just can’t get any further. My head is thick with blood. Three for a girl. I can hear the magpies-they’re laughing, mocking me, a raucous cackling. A tiding. Bad tidings. I can see them now, black against the sun. Not the birds, something else. Someone’s coming. Someone is speaking to me. Now look. Now look what you made me do…”
Rachel is failing at moving on. Too tired and too often too drunk to make anything of her life. That is why she needs Jason and Jess. Her perfect couple. They lead the life she once had. Until the day. Until she sees something from the train that changes everything. But who will believe her. Who will trust her.
The Girl on the Train is compelling and emotionally taxing. You will be angry and at once supportive of Rachel as she tries to piece together what she believes she has seen through the fog of her alcohol impaired memories. She is at times so damaged, that there is a sense of overwhelming hopelessness, which is what makes her attempts to do the right thing so courageous. Or is she simply fighting for attention. To matter once again when she is devoid of any self worth.
There is also a real mystery here. The story told through the voices of three women. Rachel, Anna and Megan. Each with their own demons. Each with their own self afflictions. Each trying to make the most of their bad decisions.
But it is Rachel who drives the train so to speak, Rachel who must set right the wrong she knows has happened. Rachel that makes the Girl on the Train so unforgettable.
A terrific debut. A terrific read!