Review by CJ
409 [excluding acknowledgments]
Rachel is an alcoholic who commutes to and from London every day on the train. On her commute she passes the house in which she lived with her now ex-husband. He still lives there with his new wife and baby. To distract herself from looking in on her old life, she creates an idealised fantasy world for the couple she often sees a couple of doors down. When the wife in this couple goes missing, Rachel finds herself inserted into the investigation both by circumstances and then through her own continued bad choices. But will Rachel find the truth or will her alcohol addled brain only show her what she thinks she knows?
The Girl on the Train is a well written psychological thriller with an intricate design. The plot is engaging and has several convincing red herrings scattered throughout it.
The Girl on the Train is written in a diary-like format from the three main female characters point of view: Rachel — the eponymous girl on the train, Anna — Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife, and Megan — the girl whose relationship Rachel idealises. The timeline jumps around considerably so the diary format helps the reader keep track of where they are chronologically within the story. It also allows the reader a twice daily insight into what has happened with that character. What they have thought, felt and seen in the time since we last heard from them. This style gives a much more intimate glance into the story and characters than it would if The Girl on the Train was written in a third-person perspective.
I did find that none of the characters in The Girl on the Train are actually likeable. Rachel is pitiable because of all she has been through, but I wouldn’t call her a likeable character. I found all of the other primary characters positively loathsome. Adultery, abuse and anger management problems run rampant through the characters as do jealousy and mistrust.
In saying that, I don’t feel that characters have to be likeable to make a good story. Did I like Megan? Not particularly. Did I want to know what happened to her, how and why? Absolutely. The lack of likeability makes these very flawed characters seem more realistic and certainly more suited for the situations in which they have all found themselves.
I recommend The Girl on the Train for readers looking for a modern whodunnit with substance and an array of interesting, if not likeable, characters.