Could there be a more unreliable narrator than a drunk? Rachel Watson rides the train to and from her suburban home to London every day, passing the house she used to share with her ex-husband Tom and a neighboring house occupied by a presumably happily married young couple. Rachel is “The Girl on the Train,” and she watches the couple she’s dubbed “Jess and Jason” every day. “I’d rather be here, looking out at the houses beside the track, than almost anywhere else,” she says.
Rachel yearns for the life she lost with Tom – and drinks to mask her loneliness and unhappiness. She’s lost her job, yet still rides train daily, maintaining allowing her very tolerant flat mate to think she is commuting to work.
On Friday, 12 July 2013, she sees Jess kiss another man. “I feel as if I have been cheated on.” She would know.
On Saturday, 13 July, 2013, she decides to go see Jason:
I am going to see Jason.
I spent all day in my bedroom, waiting for Cathy to go out so that I could have a drink. She didn’t. . . .By late afternoon I couldn’t stand the confinement or the boredom any longer, so I told her I was going out for a walk. I went to the Wheatsheaf, the big anonymous pub just off High Street, and I drank three large glasses of wine. I had two shots of Jack Daniel’s. Then I walked to the station, bought a couple of cans of gin and tonic and got onto the train.
I am going to see Jason.
I’m not going to visit him . . . . Nothing like that. Nothing crazy. I just want to go past the house, roll by on the train. . . .
This isn’t a good idea. . . .
This is a very bad idea.
When Rachel wakes up at home the next day, after a blackout, she can’t remember a thing after getting off the train. “Every time I think I’m about to seize the moment, it drifts back into the shadow, just beyond my reach.”
Even more perplexing, is that Megan Hipwell – “Jess” – has been missing from her home since that Saturday night. Rachel gets involved, wanting to share what she has seen with the police, who think she is entirely unreliable. Yet she quickly becomes ensnared in the lives of everyone involved in a deftly plotted investigation as she struggles to unlock the mystery trapped inside her head.
“The Girl on the Train” is Paula Hawkins’ first thriller and it’s a winner. The story unfolds in chapters that are alternately narrated by Rachel, Megan and Tom’s new wife, Anna. Barreling along like a high-speed train, this riveting page-turner is certain to be compared to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” Make no mistake: “The Girl on the Train” is even better.
“The Girl on the Train” is available on amazon.com and at your favorite New York bookstores.