The story starts with Rachel Watson…poor, fat Rachel…sad Rachel…a sorry little liar with no life of her own… a barren lonely desperate broke divorcee who is about to be homeless and an AA for whom the only source of consolation lies in binge drinking. It’s difficult for her to let go of her memories, more so because as she boards the train for her daily commute twice a day, she’s forced to witness the have-it-all happy life of her former husband, his new wife and their new baby who live in a house right next to the railway track down which her train rattles every time.
Her life takes a turn when a young woman, who lived a few houses away from Rachel’s ex’s home and someone who Rachel used to see every morning during her commute, vanishes into thin air and Rachel stumbles upon a secret that can help unravel the mystery, but only if the cops and everyone else are going to trust in the claims made by a desperate attention seeking alcohol addict like Rachel. But Rachel doesn’t give up and continues her independent investigation and a passionate pursuit of justice for the disappeared, may be now dead, woman until she actually cracks the puzzle.
Things that worked well:
- the first person narrative style of telling the story switching among the voices of three women, Rachel, Anna and Megan and how despite being so different from each other, their destinies actually overlapped in the end.
- Paula Hawkins does an excellent job being the voice of three women who are at completely different stages of their lives: a moronic alcoholic who’s lost everything, a happily married young mom who has everything, and a bored housewife who doesn’t know what she wants in life. The voices sound so different from each other that it’s hard to believe they came out of the pen of a single person. Kudos to the author for that !
- the way Paula Hawkins plays with the chronology of events and toggles the reader back and forth between the past and the present.
- the empathy with which the author presents the poles apart psychology of three women and eventually interconnects them.
- the clever way in which Paula Hawkins drops the clues intermittently while telling the story; if you’re reading carefully you can start joining the dots and figuring out the who-dunnit part before the story gets over.
Things that didn’t work so well:
- the predictability: I personally enjoy reading a thriller when I can figure out who the criminal is before the author herself tells me about him/her, but for someone writing mystery fictions may be it’s not that big a pat on the back, if the reader knows the who-dunnit part before the writer herself reveals that. I wish the clues she drops off and on were a little more subtle.
- I know misfortunes seldom come alone and when it rains, it pours, but heaping all the misfortunes you can possibly think of on just one person with no silver lining drags on a little too much. I guess the main purpose was to boost the dramatic element and help the reader connect more with Rachel’s sorrows, but Rachel’s sad life and especially her self pity gets a bit boring and depressing for readers towards the end.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read and a great way to kick start my New Year reading challenge.
3.5 out of 5 stars for The Girl on the Train.