T he Girl on the Train is a thrilling novel that grabs you from page one. Three narrators piece together the riveting story; Rachel, Megan and Anna, whose lives end up tragically intertwined.
We first encounter Rachel, a divorcee on her commute home on a London train. At first glance, she is just an ordinary woman not worth a second glance. But in fact she is secretly drinking a pre-mixed gin and tonic. And she has three more at the ready in a plastic bag.
The journey on the train takes Rachel past the neighbourhood in which she used to live. She daydreams as the train rolls down the tracks.
“My head leaning against the carriage window, I watch these houses roll past me like a tracking shot in a film. I see them as others do not; even their owners probably don’t see them from this perspective. Twice a day, I am offered a view into other lives, just for a moment. There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.”
But her daydreaming does not stray to house number twenty-three – her home in a previous life, now occupied by her ex-husband Tom and his new wife Anna. To avoid the pain, Rachel focuses on house number fifteen, where a gorgeous, seemingly perfect couple live.
In actual fact, the couple are called Megan and Scott. And in fact, things are not so rosy. One day, Rachel’s idyllic daydream is shattered when she spots Megan with another man. Soon after this, Megan disappears altogether.
Rachel is convinced she can help the police figure out what happened to Megan, but her well-intentioned efforts are distorted by her alcoholic memory loss. Her drinking problem brings her a raft of issues, including drunk-dialling her ex and his new wife, and even losing her job. She warrants sympathy from the reader, and later on, flashbacks that offer some redemption are a welcome relief. Another centre of pain for a reader is a chilling pattern that runs throughout the novel, of women being in physically and violent abusive relationships.
The Girl on the Train is a gripping page-turner. The author, Paula Hawkins is adept at juggling narrators, while keeping suspense high.
Hawkins is Zimbabwean-born, but now based in London. A former journalist turned novelist, she has written books under her pen name Amy Silver. The Girl on the Train was on the number 1 New York Times Bestseller list and was USA Today Book of the Year. It has recently been brought to the big screen as a blockbuster thriller.
During the first week of December Hawkins will be in Harare for an evening of conversation and reading, together with Petina Gappah at the launch Gappah’s new book, Rotten Row. The event is dubbed “The Girl on the Train meets Rotten Row”. It will be hosted by actress Chipo Chung at REPS Theatre on Saturday 3 December, 6:30. Tickets are $15.
The Girl on the Train was published in January 2015 by Riverhead Books, US and Doubleday, UK.