Rachel Watson is the definition of an unreliable narrator. The main character in Paula Hawkins’ debut novel is the titular “girl on the train,” and as she rides the train daily to cover up her unemployed status from her roommate, she fantasizes about the people she sees. Since her own life is in shambles (divorced but still obsessed with her ex-husband, unemployed and an alcoholic with the tendency to black out), Rachel’s only solace in life is imagining a perfect life for one particular couple that she sees from the train. She names them Jess and Jason, and has imagined a wonderful life for the two of them. “They are a perfect, golden couple,” Rachel says.
But they aren’t that. And Rachel finds that out soon enough, when she sees something shocking.
The couple, Megan and Scott, live just a few doors down from Rachel’s ex, Tom, and his new wife, Anna. When Megan goes missing, Rachel can’t seem to keep what she saw to herself. She becomes intensely involved in the middle of the hunt for Megan, and begins to slowly uncover her blacked out memories.
This book shifts between the perspectives of Rachel, the missing Megan, and Anna, Tom’s new wife. There are time shifts, mysterious phone calls and a missing person. For a first novel, this is a deeply masterful novel. The twist at the end is surprising, and plays out in the most bizarre way. It makes heroes out of some truly loathsome characters, and helps illuminate the relationship between Rachel’s lost memory and her imagination.
The Girl on the Train is a masterful piece of literature with beautiful prose and an ending that will make you gasp. You can order it on Amazon.