This thriller has received a lot of hype as a fast-paced page-turner and so it seemed perfect as a summer holiday read.
The titular girl on the train is Rachel, a thirty something divorcee who takes the daily commute into London where she works in PR. Every morning Rachel daydreams about the people she can see from the train — other lives being played out in kitchens and gardens a stone’s throw from the train track. Rachel develops a particular fantasy about a young attractive couple and imagines their perfect life together. It’s an escape for Rachel who is a drunk and who can’t leave her ex-husband alone, to the chagrin of his new wife Anna. Rachel’s broken life is slowly revealed as she narrates the opening of the book in first person.
One day as Rachel looks from the train, she sees the young woman with a different man and finds herself shocked. When the woman makes the headlines for going missing, Rachel finds herself unable to resist becoming part of the story. As it slowly unravels, it’s clear the Rachel is involved in ways she doesn’t understand and will be devastated to uncover.
This is a fast paced book, despite the detailed inner thoughts of main narrator Rachel. The most interesting aspect of her account is that she’s unreliable: her drunkenness clouds her story in ways that make you wonder whether anything she says is really the truth. Later the viewpoint switches first to that of the missing woman, Megan, and then to Anna, the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband. Both these women are written in the first person, but it becomes a little tiresome as they all have the same voice. I found this the weakest aspect of the book: these women are not distinctive enough and their viewpoints are never balanced with viewpoints from the men in the story.
The actual mystery of the story — what happened to Megan — brings these three women together and I had great fun trying to work out the puzzle. It becomes evident around the half-way mark and the remaining half of the book does drag somewhat with a fairly predictable outcome. Nevertheless this is an engaging holiday read and had me hooked until the end.