The Girl On The Train is a split narrative book and we hear the stories of Rachel, Megan and Anna whose lives interlink tragically.
We first encounter Rachel on her commute home from London. At first she seems like just another tired worker going back to the suburbs except that she has cans of gin and tonic in her bag and that’s just for starters. Rachel’s train journey goes along the backs of houses. For some reason Rachel is unable to look at number 23 so everyday when she passes that house she focuses instead on number 15. Rachel becomes obsessed with the couple that live there whom she names “Jess and Jason” and obsesses over their “perfect life” that she has invented in her head. But one day as she passes she sees something that startles her. She then reads that Jess, or Megan as she is actually known, has vanished. The papers seem to be implying that her husband is to blame but Rachel believes Jason/Scott to be innocent.
Rachel is an alcoholic and the house that she can’t bear look at is her old house where she used to live with her husband Tom who now lives there with his new wife Anna. She can’t remember much about the night Megan went missing near her old home but she keeps seeing flashes of blood, an underpass, a blue dress and a man with red hair but it is all jumbled in her mind. She feels like she knows something but just can’t remember it. Rachel tries to involve herself in the investigation but she is prone to blackouts, being irrational, drunk-dialing, etc so the police dismiss her. She can’t let it go though and the more she gets involved, the more danger she puts herself in. The more Rachel discovers about the missing Megan the less she likes her and Scott is also seems more slippery than his charming manner indicates.
I wouldn’t say any of the characters are likable. You feel sorry for Rachel but she is weak, emotionally unbalanced, occasionally spiteful and self-pitying. She is also overweight, relatively unattractive, a “sad sack” compared to the vibrant Megan and glossy, sexy Anna who glories in her victory over her predeccessor. She has been sacked from her job and is living in her long-suffering friend’s spare room. Megan has an interesting back story but it is not one that endears you to her. Anna is a bit of a bitch, I’m sorry but she is. She is appearance-obsessed, she fat-shames Rachel and gloats that she “won” when talking about her affair with Tom. Anna seems less the innocent victim of Rachel’s stalking and more a vindictive trouble-maker. And both Anna and Rachel are blind to Tom’s flaws.
Tom at first is a nice guy driven mad by a crazy ex-wife but there is something disquieting lurking beneath his calm surface. I guessed that he was the killer but I did not guess the stuff that comes out about his relationship with Rachel. It was so messed up and a real twist.
It was a really good read. The suspense builds up throughout the story. You have empathy for the unusual central character who turned to alcohol during her marriage to deal with her depression. The novel brings you inside the mind of an alcoholic. The different characters are interesting even if they aren’t particularly likable. I enjoyed it and would thoroughly recommend it.