This was a review of ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins that I did for the Courier in the last academic year.
As the trailer for the film version of this critically acclaimed book is currently going viral online, here is a review of the ‘book of 2015’ that is coming to cinemas this October.
‘The Girl on the Train’ starts off with the journey, with Rachel looking into the
windows of the houses lining the rail-tracks, the same ones she goes past every
day. She tries to understand their inhabitants, and gets closely involved in their
relationships. The book picks up the pace just like a train, slowly chugging away
through the introduction of all the characters, and then quickening as soon as
Megan disappears from her home. This is far more than just a good book- it is in
exploration of the lives of the women involved, broken and torn in so many ways.
Modern female readers now expect realistic heroines, ones that donǯt shy away
from the realities of a bored lifestyle, and are infinitely more complex and dark
than previously written about. Classic tales of female self-discovery are getting
arduous to read, and a heroine like Rachel, drunk, barren and divorced, defies
the pristine model of the ideal suburban housewife. Through Megan’s
disappearance, Rachel finds a purpose, and tries to bring Megan back, at the
same time revealing her lies.
The book is set in Buckinghamshire, England, and the image of the Victorian
houses with windows like blank eyes give an air of menace to the quiet idyll of
suburbia. The frantic back and forth between characters –Rachel-Megan-Anna –
forces the reader to accustom himself to these contradicting characters, with the
men in their lives revolving around them, not fully integrated into their inner
monologues. Although the main story is about them, the relationships on the side
between the women are the ones worth paying attention to. The story of pain
and hardship in this book is obvious, and yet the crafty way that the characters
manage to lie and carve out a way for themselves brings the reader in, no matter
how repulsive the description. When Rachel comes back home and vomits on the
stairs, nothing is omitted, every last bruise and finger-mark is imprinted on the
page, and that is what makes it such a hard book to put down. There is also
something very brutal about the way quiet, married life is portrayed, as nothing
is as it should be, with relationship happiness being identified with boredom and
failure, instead of a joyous union.
Rachel is raw, real and constantly in pain from bruises, unhappiness and drink,
but she is real and truthful about her life, and this is clearly visible in her
involvement with the characters from the houses below the train. Megan on the
other hand is bored with her perfect lifestyle, having multiple affairs and leading
her husband on like it was child’s-play. Anna is preoccupied with her child,
unhappy to be living in the home destined for a different woman- Rachel,
sleeping in her sheets, with Rachel’s ex-husband. Although nothing should bring
these women together, their interlinked lives and their collective unhappiness in
their situations makes it highly enjoyable to get in the dirt with them and
uncover their lives in this gripping book.