Review of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Apparently this book was marketed as the new Gone Girl. I didn't really see the similarities myself as one felt very British and the other quintessentially American. I also felt that the voices of these writers were entirely different despite their common features including unhappy and insecure female characters in a thriller type setting with revolving points of view written in the first person. The story begins with the captivating premise that mystery and intrigue can be thrust upon anyone, even when that someone sits behind the window of a train. In this sense it is not unlike Hitchcock's Rear Window when crime unfolds before the eyes of a detached bystander. In this case, the not so detached bystander is the troubled Rachel, an unemployed alcoholic who fantasises about the lives of the people she views from the train, one couple in particular, Megan and Scott, who she calls 'Jess and Jason'. Coincidentally, this couple just happens to live down the road from the home she once shared with her ex-husband. He still lives in their marital home but with his new wife and baby. The mystery begins when Rachel views Megan involved in behaviour that is uncharacteristic of her idealised view of the couple she's been fantasising about. The plot thickens when Megan becomes the apparent victim of a crime. From that point, the neurotic and depressing Rachel allows herself to become increasingly embroiled in the police investigation and the lives of the people living on that street, including Megan's husband, Scott. Needless to say, Rachel's involvement is complicated by the fact that her sense of reality and fantasy is constantly blurred by her drinking habits leading to unreliable recollections, confused understandings of events and a feeling of increasing menace from one of her fellow characters. I enjoyed this book as an audio book, enhanced by the excellent narration of Clare Corbett, India Fisher and Louise Brealey as the three main female characters. The narration of the strident, irritable Anna and the flakey Rachel were particularly good. Girl on the Train was edgy and well-written but at times, incredibly irritating (the dependence of each of these purposeless women upon the male actors in their lives nearly drove me mad). But despite some reviewers saying they'd worked out 'whodunit' within the first chapter, I wasn't sure myself until the end - perhaps that makes me a bit slow! I can't say I was convinced by the unlikely truce struck by two of the characters towards the end but all in all, it was an entertaining and gripping read.

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