Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, carries the reader into the lives of three women who occupy, at one time or another, two houses on Bleinheim Rd. in London. Rachel views them from the train, and for her they represent the marriage she had and lost. Anna, the second voice, is her replacement. Megan, the third voice, and her husband, Scott, live three doors down in what looks to Rachael like marital bliss. Together, they create a rather harrowing picture of the way human passions and obsessions play off each other, leading to tragedy.
Hawkins does an exquisite job of bringing to life the anguish of self-condemnation and grief that drives both Rachel’s obsession with the two houses and her alcoholism. Anna, now married to Tom, the love of Rachel’s life, must deal with Rachel’s inability to cope with her loss, and Megan, seen from the inside, is not quite the blissful wife Rachel imagines. Again, Hawkins does a remarkable job of absorbing us into the emotional states of these women as well.
Then Rachel observes a very different scene from her train window, and Megan disappears, transforming the story into a mystery. It is the mystery that carries the book from this point, and Hawkins’ shows great skill in creating suspense with plot twists and timing. In her pursuit of the truth, Rachel pulls herself from the pit, providing necessary relief for the reader.
In fact, Hawkins may have succeeded too well in drawing us into both Rachel’s and Megan’s desperate, out of control lives, for it is difficult to stay with characters who are so bent on self-destruction. For me, the mystery and the changes in Rachel kept me reading and rooting for her—but barely. The popularity of the book suggests she succeeds, but I welcome other readers’ comments.