The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
One of my favourite things to do in life is people watch. I love sneaking covert glances at complete strangers and wondering what their lives are made up of. More often than not, this happens on public transport, so this book has struck a chord.
Rachel is going through an incredibly difficult time. On her way to and from work each day, her train stops behind a row of houses. She looks in the garden of a particular one and sees a couple she believes to be the epitome of happiness. Constructing a life for them in her head, seeing them each day helps her cope with her failed marriage, her loneliness, and her turbulent alcoholism. One day she sees something that doesn't quite fit into the fantasy, and things spiral out of control as she becomes involved in a police investigation. We soon find Rachel is more closely connected to the couple than we think, however to give anything else away here would be entirely unfair to future readers.
Every character in this novel was overly loathsome in their own way. Hawkins really explores the darkness of the human character by using multiple-voice with three narrators as unreliable as each other. Although it doesn't take a Holmes intellect to solve the mystery, getting there is the real pleasure. Hawkins writing style is unsettling, we can't trust any of the characters, and we have no idea where we're going. Rachel's alcoholic blackouts make us distrust her, but her sorrow and regret strike up rhythms of sympathy
The most terrifying thing about the story is the implication that you never truly know a person. We all know people lie, people hide things, but to what degree? It's disturbing to think that those closest to you could have secrets that could question your whole perception of them.
It's a pretty standard mystery-crime-thriller-suspense novel, and although I can understand why some dislike it, I found it gripping and fascinating. Despite the twist being predictable, and the plot starting and stopping as much as the symbolic train, I enjoyed it as a study of character, of flaw, and of the illusion of trust.