The BUZZ: A debut psychological thriller that is already a New York Times bestseller; Amazon Best Book of the Month for January, 2015.
The GIST: Lonely and bored, Rachel rides the train to London each day, passing through the suburbs. The train stops regularly at a particular crossing, and Rachel has the chance to peer into the lives of those whose homes back up to the tracks. She invents a story around one attractive couple and even names them. They have the perfect life, it seems, until Rachel sees the woman kiss another man on her terrace. The next day, the woman’s disappearance is all over the news. Rachel – an alcoholic whose life is rapidly falling apart – becomes caught up in the search for the killer. She has hazy memories of that night, but there are huge gaps in what she can recall. As she pursues hunches and clues, she slams into the ugly truth about herself and her past.
The WRITING: Straightforward. This novel is written from the standpoint of three characters, each telling her side of the story; Hawkins keeps the story moving and continually casts doubt on the veracity of each narrator. The writing is the vehicle for getting the story told, and there is no nuance or poetry in language or theme here. However, Hawkins provides an intimate and layered view of relationships, taking us behind the walls and doors we see and reminding us that we don’t know what goes on in others’ marriages, we simply make assumptions.
BUY or BORROW?: Borrow. The Girl on the Train is a gripping mystery that unfolds chapter by chapter, gaining speed as it clatters along. The generous use of the unreliable narrator reminded me strongly of The Other Typist, which we reviewed here. If you’re looking for an escape novel, this one has the goods.
I linger in the living room or at the kitchen table, ill at ease and powerless. I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.