The Girl on the Train is a mystery story that is told from the perspective of a few different characters. Firstly, there is Rachel, who is the titular girl on the train, an alcoholic young woman, who rides a train into London everyday for work. During her daily trips to and fro, she begins to recognize some of the characters who live along the railway. Not knowing them in person, she begins to develop characters and back stories for them – in particular, a couple whom she names Jason and Jess. She sees increasingly odd behaviour between the two, and one day, notices that Jess disappears. We also follow Anna, the current wife of Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom. She is an insecure woman who reveals her claws to protect those close to her. Interestingly enough, Anna and Tom live along the rail and are never too far from Rachel’s eyes. And finally, we follow Megan, a young and mysterious woman who lives a few doors down from Anna and Tom.
All these perspectives revolve around the disappearance of the young woman, “Jess”. But with inconsistent stories and shady motives, whose story can we really trust?
Ultimately, the story is enjoyable, although I don’t feel like the third act stuck the landing. It’s not a complete mystery with what happened regarding the missing woman and who was involved, but it just felt like the motives were a bit tried and brought nothing new to the table. You can really see the story brought onto the silver screen (note that the filming rights were purchased by Dreamworks!). It has that broad general appeal that will make the film a success. However, I did have a problem with some of the writing. For example, we learn early on that Rachel is an alcoholic. From then on, it seems that every other page during Rachel’s story, talks about how she wants a drink. We get it. She’s an alcoholic. She likes to drink. The point doesn’t need to be brought up so often. It’s at these moments where I rolled my eyes.
This is author Paula Hawkin’s first major book release and is a worldwide hit. She’s written a few romantic novels in the past under a pseudonym, but the Girl on the Train is the first penned under her real name. There is much comparison out there with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and it’s very easy to see where the comparisons are coming from. They both follow the beat of a thriller/suspense story with bouncing perspectives. The trust of the perspectives in both stories is always in question, so there’s that same sense of dread, tension and forebodingness. And perhaps it’s this aspect that brings the closest comparison. I should note that I haven’t read Gone Girl, only read the book which I understand follows the book quite closely. Overall, if I had to compare the two, I enjoyed Gone Girl more only because the ending was a bit more ambiguous and open ended. The Girl on the Train follows a more conventional story arc and thus, ends how you would expect things to end.
As a popular fiction novel, it’s an enjoyable read and it’s never offensive. But if this isn’t your usual thing, you’re not missing out on too much! Until next time, later geeks!