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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Girl on the Train

"I am no longer just a girl on a train, going back and forth without form and purpose." The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, was last year's hot book, a kind of second coming of Gone Girl, in that there are unreliable narrators and a murder seems to have been committed. The other similarity is that the narrators are all pretty horrible people--or, scratch that--unheroic people. If you've been ever been a commuter on public transportation, you may have idly looked around at the people on your bus or train and wondered if you were stuck with these people for all time. That's kind of like this book, for better or worse.

The most predominant narrator is Rachel, who is one of the saddest sacks I've come across in a book in a long time. She is unemployed, but still rides the train into London so her flatmate thinks she works. On the ride in, there's a spot where the train stops for a signal and she is able to see into the house of an attractive young couple. She gives them names and fantasizes about their ideal lives. Then she sees the woman kissing another man. Also, this house is only five houses down from one she used to live in.

Rachel was dumped by her ex-husband, Tom, who married Anna and and had a baby. Rachel, to put it mildly, has not dealt with it well. She's gained weight and has become a major drinker (which is why she got fired). She can't stay away from Tom, calling him and showing up at his house, so much that Anna is terrified of her (once she awoke to find her holding her baby out by the train tracks).

The other major narrator is Megan, who is the woman Rachel has idealized. She goes missing, and Rachel, wanting to feel needed, inserts herself into the case. She reports to the police that she saw him kissing another man, and they of course wonder how she knows this. But Rachel also may have a key piece of evidence, as she was in the area when Megan went missing, but is too drunk to remember it.

The Girl on the Train is a better-than-average page turner, if you can get over how pathetic Rachel is. Gone Girl was about two people so horrible they deserved each other, but this book is different, in that Rachel is basically alone and has to confront that. Eventually I came around and rooted for her, even as she lied to Megan's husband, the number one suspect.

Of course, this will soon be a major motion picture. It's set in the U.S., though, and not England, which has already got the message boards heated up.

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