The titular girl on the train is Rachel, an alcoholic, unemployed divorcee who commutes into London every day because she can’t admit to her flatmate that she lost her job. The train takes her past her old neighbourhood, where her ex-husband now lives with his current wife and their baby daughter. In the same neighbourhood lives another couple, whose lives Rachel fantasizes about. She makes up names and stories about them and how happy they are together. Until something goes wrong, and Rachel thinks she knows what.
In diary form, we follow Rachel as she tries to find out what happened. How reliable a narrator can an alcoholic be, when she suffers from frequent booze-induced blackouts and constantly lies to the people who care about her? How much do we, who read her story, judge her for all the mistakes she makes? And – obviously – whodunnit?
Paula Hawkins’ writing is exciting, her descriptions of Rachel’s state of mind, fears and hopes ring true. Rachel’s life is spinning out of control and you can’t help feeling sorry for her. At the same time you cringe because of all the wrong decisions she makes and because of the terrifying consequences of some of them. When Rachel is afraid, you feel her fear in your bones; it is suffocating, and the fact that she sometimes doesn’t even remember what happened to her is like being stuck a nightmare you cannot wake up from. The horror is there, only you don’t see the cause of it.
Rachel is not the only narrator in the story; we also follow Megan – the woman in the couple Rachel fantasizes about – and Anna, the woman Rachel’s husband left her for. Their voices are perhaps not as distinctive as I would have liked, but you can definitely tell them apart from Rachel’s. A good thing seeing as Rachel is the main character of the story.
This was a very entertaining and quick read. One of the best I’ve read in this genre.