I tend to shy away from best-sellers because I'm often disappointed when they don't live up to the hype, but when I saw The Girl on the Train on the swaps bookshelf at our hotel in Lanzarote, I couldn't resist picking it up.
I was immediately drawn to the unusual structure. It is told by three different narrators - Rachel, Anna and Megan - but starting from different time periods that rapidly converge. The main character, and the one that we are first introduced to, is Rachel, the girl on the train from the title. Although she seems likeable enough, we immediately realise that she has a big drink problem and an unhealthy obsession with peering into the windows and the lives of the people who live along her daily commute to London. As the book progresses, we learn more about her motives and the reasons for her failings - she used to live in one of these houses and her ex-husband, now with new wife and daughter, has kept on the house that he once shared with Rachel. Although the reader still views her as a mentally unstable woman who makes very dubious life choices, we do empathise with her a lot more from this point onwards.
Rachel is particularly obsessed with the house opposite a faulty signal that the train always stops at - the inhabitants, who she often sees indulging in very public displays of affection on their roof terrace, have been built up in her imagination to represent the ideal loved-up couple, the perfect partnership that she could have had but lost. Then one day, her idealistic vision is shattered when she seems something that makes her realise there's trouble in her invented paradise. Should she leave these people to get on with their lives or is this the perfect way to introduce herself into their reality?
As it is a first person narrative, the reader knows that we are only getting a subjective view of the truth. By comparing the different narrators' versions though, we do manage to get the bigger picture and possibly end up with a better view of reality than each separate voice. Characters are presented through their eyes and we follow their changing viewpoints as the novel progresses.
Maybe I read too many psychological thrillers but I did actually work out the probable ending from very early on. I still found it to be a tense and totally gripping novel though and liked seeing all the different parts of the story slot into place, even if I thought the characters were a bit one dimensional. The film version will be hitting the big screens in October and I'll be keen to see how it translates into a movie.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £7.99