The basics: Rachel, the titular girl on the train, commutes about an hour into London each day. On her commute, the train stops near the home of Megan, and Rachel imagines, and longs for, her life. One day, she sees Megan at her house with another man. The next day, Megan goes missing and is all over the news.
My thoughts: The Girl on the Train is the breakout novel of the season. And it's a good one. It's a literary thriller with well-drawn, interesting characters. I enjoyed the journey as much as the destination (a cringe-worthy pun for a novel about a train, I know.) In short, The Girl on the Train is so successful because it is both appealing to the masses with its fast-paced plot and appealing to more serious readers with its depth and themes.
Rachel is an unreliable narrator, yet she was my favorite character, and I identified with her the most. She's not unreliable for nefarious reasons but because she is an alcoholic prone to blackouts. It's a wonderful storytelling device to listen as Rachel tries to reconstruct her movements. It propels both the plot and the exploration of how and why Rachel drinks as much as she does. I found this duality very satisfying.
The verdict: The Girl on the Train is a satisfying page turner. It is both a suspenseful, engaging read and a thoughtful exploration of the dark periods of life. Its flawed characters are as fascinating as their actions are at times confounding and heartbreaking.
Audio thoughts: The audio production of this novel elevated my enjoyment of it. The three narrators helped differentiate the three main female characters, as each had her own distinctive voice. After chatting with some who read the book in print, I think I found Rachel to be more sympathetic because of Clare Corbett's performance, which enhanced my emotional connection to Rachel and the events of this novel. Curious? Check out these samples of each narrator.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (audio production 5 out of 5)
Length: 10 hours 59 minutes (336 pages)
Publication date: January 13, 2015
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