Just finished reading The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. A frenzy of a read, written in the first person, but with a chorus of voices and constantly changing array of characters. Rapid-fire divergences in who the hell is speaking may confuse you at first, but read on. All will become manageably coherent. And, you’ll soon be in joyful celebration that someone other than you owns these nightmarish lives. Let’s start with Rachel, the main voice.
Rachel’s awash in a tsunami of angst. She’s an overweight, divorced drunk, whose newly remarried husband, his new wife, and their new child live down the block in Rachel’s old home. Rachel also lost her job some months ago, but travels by train to London everyday, just to keep up appearances, and keep her suspicious landlord/roommate at bay. In short, Rachel’s angst surpasses waking up to find you had unprotected sex with a male stripper in a leper colony and you’re carrying his child.
Can it get worse and more problematic? With this collection of dysfunctional misfits? Most assuredly. Hey, the book is a murder mystery. Maybe. Perhaps it’s just as delusional as Rachel, whose blackouts are darker than the streets of London at the height of the Blitz. Perhaps no one was murdered, but everyone is guilty of something. In this book, guilt runs like a pride of lions through a herd of gazelles.
Preposterous plot? Yes. So what keeps the book going? Scintillating writing. Morbid curiosity. Characters that sparkle like broken glass in a sewer.
Rachel lives in an undistinguished house, in row of undistinguished houses, in a small, nondescript village on the outskirts of London. The houses hide a lot of secrets, but given the pathetic lives of the inhabitants, I find myself asking, “Do I really want to know?” Oh, hell yes! I’m as perverse as any other voyeur, with time to spare, a gin & tonic in my grubby hand, and a nearby train rattling my shabby windows.
In this hub of unwashed hypocrisy, husbands screw around with any skirt that stands still, or doesn’t move fast enough. Wives are beautiful (except for Rachel) harridans who wouldn’t know happiness if it blooded their noses…or in that case, maybe they would.
The plot is a tangled web of lies and unforgiving hate, but nevertheless, you’ll be driven crazy until you know the truth. In this case, the truth may not set you free, but it may make you want to immediately do something to pull yourself out of this tortured fug. Gargle with lye. Chug a pint of whiskey. Euthanize a few dogs. Sit on a curb with homeless people and explain why you’re unhappy.
A great read if you’re strong of heart. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.