Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…
My last review talked about having possibly found a future “book of the year”. Now I don’t want to repeat myself, but here’s another very strong contender – The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins, which must surely be the most reviewed book ever ahead of its publication by Doubleday (Transworld) on 15 January (my thanks to Alison Barrow for my advance reading copy).
The psychological thriller market is a crowded one, but this book stands head and shoulders above some of the others. The initial premise of the story is really original – Rachel catches the train to London Euston every morning and, gazing out of the window (as you do) she becomes fascinated by a couple who live near the house where she used to live, a couple she names Jess and Jason. One morning she witnesses an event that she realises might have a particular significance, and involves herself in the lives of the couple (who are actually called Scott and Megan). Sounds fairly simple so far, doesn’t it? But there are so many extra elements, twists and turns, layer after layer, to this wonderful story that it becomes totally impossible to put down until you’ve reached the last page.
Rachel herself is a fascinating and complex character – an unreliable narrator with a twist, because her alcoholism sometimes means that her grasp of what is real and what isn’t can sometimes be distinctly shaky. She does, though, have a very clear “voice” – the novel is written from the perspectives of three women, all connected in ways that are revealed throughout the book, but it is Rachel who always fascinates. None of the characters is particularly likeable, but that doesn’t matter – this is a book that grips you from the outset, and you just have to stick with it every waking moment as this story of ordinary people plays itself out before you.
The book is perfectly paced, beautifully constructed, overflowing with a tension that builds through the book, full of twists and turns that hit you from left field, and an absolute joy to read. For once, you can really believe the hype that’s preceded its publication – just clear your diary before starting it, because it will take over your life until you finish.