Following it’s phenomenal success, I was very much looking forward to reading this book whilst on holiday. On my flight, the lady beside me was reading it and she didn’t put it down once, which I thought was a great sign!
Now I understand why. It is, in my opinion, a gripping read – a real page turner. So, to the story first. We first meet Rachel as she is returning home from work (by train) on a Friday afternoon. She is the narrator, and we are immediately drawn into her world of drinking and daydreaming. She has four cans of pre-mixed gin and tonic on the train and that is just for starters. So, as a narrator, we see that she is pretty unreliable from the off. However she is also very likable with all her human flaws and I felt I could identify with some of her feelings early on. Rachel’s journey takes her past the back of her old house, where she lived with her now ex-husband Tom. We soon discover she is divorced, as a result of her drinking, which is partly as a result of her not being able to conceive a child.
She loves the train journey and she begins a fantasy about a couple she watches as she passes by on the train every day. She calls them Jason and Jess. The story unfolds as she is a caught up in the real lives of Jason and Jess, who are actually called Megan and Scott. The story takes off when Rachel reads in the paper that Megan has vanished, and she decides to tip off the police. She is convinced that Scott, who is the prime suspect, would never harm his beloved wife.
But due to Rachel’s drinking, which is causing blackouts, irrationality and drunk dialing, the police dismiss her as a time waster. She has also been persecuting her ex-husband Tom and his wife Anna, by bombarding them with offensive messages. She is an extremely flawed character and her alcoholic lifestyle is tragic, and leads to much confusion, both for herself and others.
As the story develops, and Rachel continues to try and remember what happened on a particular night, her life is intertwined with that of Scott, her ex-husband Tom and his wife Anna.
My thoughts on the book: starting with the good – if you can suspend judgement and get past some very unrealistic facts, this is an engrossing page turner and a perfect holiday read. The structure is clever, the narrator, although flawed is very human, and I was certainly on her side, although mightily frustrated by her as well.
The bad – I just couldn’t believe how Rachel was seemingly able to give up the drink so easily whenever it suited her, and go from a complete wreck to a competent intelligent woman, running around solving mysteries like a detective. COMING UP, SPOILER ALERT:
I also felt that Tom, as a character, was unrealistically portrayed. Surely some of the evil side of his character would have been in evidence before the end of the story? He was overly nice and thus a somewhat unrealistic character in my opinion. In saying that, I didn’t see it coming, so the author did a good job,by throwing in a few curve balls along the way (such as the red headed guy who was definitely suspicious to me, because I am obviously a bit too gullible!!)
The ugly – I felt the book was over dramatized in places. There was a lot of biting of lips and wailing and clenching of fists. I would have preferred a more subtle approach at times, although I do appreciate that the author was building tension.
To summarize, I would recommend this book. If you are willing to suspend judgement on reality and enjoy it for what it is, a great page turner of a thriller.
I look forward to hearing your views.
4 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Girl on the Train.’ The book club choice for August.”
Hi C, Thanks for your interesting take on it. It was a painful journey alright both literally and metaphorically!
It has been some time since I read The Girl on the Train so I appreciated the plot synopsis from Justine (why can I never remember character names after I turn the last page?). I enjoyed this book. I loved the concept of the train journey and that when we first meet our central character (Rachel) she is composing her own stories about the people she sees from the train. I might try it myself sometime! Like Justine I found Rachel’s stop start drinking binges a little unrealistic but necessary to the storyline I suppose! Alcohol fuelled train trips, vomiting, blackouts and stalking sessions – I felt like we lurched through every embarrassing episode – and we chringe for her. We were willing her on, wanting her to remember what happened in the tunnel as well as conquer her dependency on drink and her exhusband/Scott. While all comes good in the end, it was a painful journey! But for me that’s what made it so interesting.
Hi Tanya. Thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed it and agreed with me!! Some people take their crime fiction very seriously and don’t like to have it analysed too much. Not something I would read all year round, but next summer will be looking for more books just like it!
Hi all ! Justine I think you summed up girl on a train exceptionally well ! I identified with almost all your comments re the frustrating bits and agree that if you didnt delve too deeply into the facts etc it was a most enjoyable and gripping read ! have to say I also thought the Red Head would be a baddie ! lol
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