The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
One of Aesop’s fables centers around a young shepherd who was responsible for tending a flock of sheep. I’ll bet you know this story well. You recall that the shepherd thought it was great sport to yell out that a wolf was after his sheep. The townspeople would come running to help him save his flock from the wolf. But, there never was a wolf. He finally cried wolf so many times that the townspeople stopped listening to him. They refused to be fooled again. One day a wolf really appeared, tearing into his flock. He cried, “wolf”!, but no one believed him. The young shepherd’s flock was destroyed. He was an unbelievable and unreliable person. Through his thoughtless actions, no one trusted him, and when there was a real danger, he was left to himself.
In The Girl on the Train the reader is introduced to a woman who seems to be caught up in her own fantasies and is an unreliable witness. Like the shepherd, she has been deceitful and is not trustworthy. Rachel rides the same commuter train to and from work every day. The train stops briefly in the same spot every day. During the brief stop Rachel sees what she believes is the perfect couple. She sees them daily on their deck sharing breakfast. They seem to be so much in love. Though she does not know them personally, she has given the couple names, Jess and Jason. Her own life had come unravelled. Her marriage ended in divorce. She lost her dream home. Why can’t her life be perfect like theirs? It was supposed to be.
One day as she is riding the train, she is stunned to find Jess on her balcony with another man and this man has his hands around her neck choking her! She decides she must go to the police. How can the police believe an alcoholic who has lost her job and only takes the train to fool her roommate into thinking she is working? In point of fact, she was fired a while back. What about the fact that she really does not know their names and has only been fantasizing about their perfect life? How credible is she when the police discover that her ex-husband and his new wife and child live on the same block as Jess and Jason? The ex-husband tells the police about her violent behavior when she is drunk.
It seems that the more she tries to help, the worse her story becomes. Did she really see something or is this another one of her fantasies? The police and the reader are left to sort through what they hear and whom they should believe. You must read the book for yourself and decide what is fact and what is fiction. For myself, I really wanted to throttle Rachel. Drink after drink, lies upon lies, Rachel got on my nerves. Maybe she was supposed to and that is how the author wanted the reader to feel. I guess if the character had been free of vices and was a reliable person, the book wouldn’t have had much substance. This novel was a fast-paced thriller. Rachel was so irritating that I could only give the book 3 out of 5 stars.
What do you think of Rachel? Did you enjoy this novel? For those of you who read the book and saw the movie, was one better than the other? Let us know your thoughts, please.