“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins is a psychological thriller that will keep you awake and make you shiver from the beginning until the very end. While the story itself might be a little cliché with the sudden disappearance of a woman, the ingenious twists will keep you up, thinking, wondering and questioning everything you know.
Hawkins chose to narrate the novel through the eyes and voices of three different women named Rachel, Megan and Anna, whose futures are tragically interlaced.
To a certain extent, all of our narrators may be considered unreliable, which adds further depth to the book. It’s fast-paced and extremely suspenseful.
Rachel, the main character, remains drunk throughout most of the book, and seems to be the least trustworthy of our characters. Every day, she commutes to and from London by train. The train stops at the signal near the road along which she used to live with her ex-husband Tom, before he left her for Anna. Unable to look at her old home through the window, Rachel daydreams about the life of an attractive couple whom she watches instead. She dubs them Jason and Jess and feels envious of this happily-married couple, for the life she no longer has.
However, her illusion of the ideal couple shatters when she catches Jess kissing another man. A few days later, while reading a paper featuring the disappearance of a woman named Megan, Rachel discovers that the missing woman is Jess.
Obsessed with Megan’s fate, Rachel decides to go to the police to testify the kiss she witnessed several days prior. The police dismiss her as an unreliable witness due to her strong drinking problems and frequent blackouts. Nevertheless, this will deepen her desire to find out what happened that night.
What will truly captivate the reader is Paula Hawkin’s style. At the climax, and as the secrets start to unfold, Hawkins maximizes the suspense by changing perspectives.
The frequent changes in point of views and timescales also deepen the reader’s knowledge of the different characters, and of both their past and present. It is only further along into the plot that these perspectives begin to interfere with one another. All the minor details one may have skimmed through suddenly become very important.
The previously described perfect marital life of Jess and Jason turns out to be imperfect, if not worse than that of most couples. While Rachel might be an unattractive alcoholic, Megan is an ego-driven woman and Anna is revealed as selfish and mean.
The unreliable narrators, and the progressive revelations about each character help immerse the reader in the dark thriller that is “The Girl on the Train.”