The Girl on the Train
Thriller, 336 pages
“How does it feel, Anna, to live in my house, surrounded by the furniture I bought, to sleep in the bed that I shared with him for years, to feed your child at the kitchen table he fucked me on?”
Every morning, Rachel rides the same train. Every morning, the train pauses in the same place on the track, and Rachel looks out the window at her favorite couple. Jess and Jason are perfect – young, beautiful, madly in love – or so Rachel imagines, because Jess and Jason are strangers to her. As she wades slowly (and drunkenly) through the wreckage of her old life, Rachel finds her solace in watching Jess and Jason beginning their new one. Rachel was happy once, like Jess, with a husband and a nice home and a future. Until her husband left her for another woman, Anna, who moved into the same home she built with her husband… a house that happens to be a few doors down from Jess and Jason. Then Jess disappears – or rather, Megan disappears. As the details of Megan Hipwell’s mysterious disappearance come to light, Rachel finds herself uncontrollably drawn to the case, compelled to take part in bringing home the woman she watched from the train every morning, imagining her simpler, happier life. Unfortunately, her involvement quickly becomes a dangerous entanglement, and Rachel finds she can no longer escape the role she is playing in the disappearance of young Megan Hipwell.
Review: 3.5/5 Expected more, grumpy when it ended.
I give it an almost-four because, even though I expected more, I also couldn’t stop reading it. That counts for something. As I said in my GoodReads review, I think the constant comparison of this book to Gone Girl really corrupted the experience for me. It is NOT Gone Girl, and should not be in the same class. I don’t mean that as an insult; if anything, I mean to defend The Girl on the Train. It deserves its own respect, not respect relative to its similarity to another book about a disappearing woman.
I liked that there were three different narrators, and I liked that they were all women. The men hover at the edges of what you know is real, possibly at fault and possibly innocent, and you really can’t be sure until much closer to the end. People call the narrators unreliable, but I disagree. They were completely reliable in the sense that one’s inner monologue cannot lie. I always trusted Rachel, Anna, and Megan. The only lies they could tell me were by omission, in which case I always dog-eared a missing bit and tucked it away to help me unravel the plot. I did not, however, like all three narrators. Honestly I hated Anna (hence the quote I chose as a favorite), and Megan was a drag. I feel like you’re supposed to dislike Rachel and consider her untrustworthy because of her alcoholism, but if anything I found her the most credible, and the most consistent. I hate Anna. Hate, hate, hate.
Those things being said, and although I found I could not stop reading, once I realized whodunnit, it all felt like going downhill. I realized who it was right around page 260, and the book is 336 pages long. It was frustrating in the wrong way to have to wait for everyone else in the story to catch up and get the climax going. The climax itself bottle-rocketed up and came right back down, and by the end I was the wrong kind of restless. I needed more resolution than I got, and less “build up”.
I’ll read Hawkins’s other works for sure, because she is talented and I did get invested, but I won’t be calling The Girl on the Train my favorite.
Words that were new to me, obscure to me, or that I just wanted to highlight. I collect definitions for the ones I needed to revisit.
cairn a heap of stones set up as a landmark, monument, tombstone, etc.
high street (Brit) the main street of a town, usually where the principal shops are situated
au pair a person, usually a young foreign visitor, employed to take care of children, do housework, etc., in exchange for room and board
triumvirate a government of three officers of magistrates functioning jointly
kerb British, curb
vulpine of or resembling a fox
febrile pertaining to or marked by fever; feverish
grizzle British, to complain; whimper; wine
platitude a flat, dull, or trite remark, especially one uttered as if it were fresh or profound
brusque abrupt in manner; blunt; rough
banal devoid of freshness or originality; hackneyed; trite
hackneyed made commonplace or trite; stale
treble threefold; triple
hangdog browbeaten; defeated; intimidated; abject
riposte a quick, sharp return in speech or action; counterstroke
teetotaller British, a person who abstains totally from intoxicating drink
libel Law, a defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures; the act or crime of publishing it
frisson a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill
pram Chiefly British Informal, perambulator
perambulator baby carriage
scree a steep mass of detritus on the side of a mountain
detritus a rock in small particles or other material work or broken away from a mass, as by the action of water or glacial ice