I don’t know that I’m the intended audience for this book. I enjoy a bit of a mystery, but generally I can leave unreliable narrators and not look back because they tend to drive me to distraction. I picked this one up based on the review by popcultureboy at the end of last year. Then I started to get nervous when I realized that there were a lot of comparisons to Agatha Christie whom I have never read (I know) and Gone Girl which I could not get through. But, once the book became available from my library I decided to get over my preconceptions and give it a go.
The Girl on the Train ostensibly has three narrators, but I view this as Rachel’s story. She is the hub at the center of the wheel of crazy that is the events of this book. She is also the titular girl on the train. Rachel does what many of us do; she creates a story for herself about people or places she sees regularly. And she romanticizes it. So when things go very wrong for the people in her personal fiction the only thing Rachel can think to do is get involved. But unfortunately for her, it also begins to unravel the lies she’s crafted which keep her day to day life in order.
Rachel as an unreliable narrator works because she is unreliable to herself, and not just to the reader. She actually fesses up about the outright lies and gives the reader the truth as she knows it almost immediately. But with any decently well-paced mystery, things need to spool out over time. They do in The Girl on the Train but there were a lot of things which were outlined in the middle third which waited until the final third of the book to come together. This made the narrative feel overlong.
I got a little twitchy with the first person present narration of the book. Initially it works fine, because we’re with Rachel as she reminisces about things on her train rides in and out of London. So having the dichotomy of the Morning and Evening divisions within the sections delineated by narrator and day worked fine. But, as the story moved away from having her on the train each day, or as we were following the actions of weekends when she isn’t on the train, it felt forced in some way.
I called the ending of this book, and I think the identity of one of the other two narrators is what clued me in. Why were we spending time with her unless this other character needed to be looked at more closely? And it fell into a bit of a trope which was decently well done, just not surprising.