Very often we should not trust what we hear and what we see. We have a tendency to form opinions about stories we hear and people we know. All of us are multi-faceted but in this social media frenzy era, we see only nice posts and pictures of people having a good life. We can conjure up our own images of people we know and passers by but we will never know their lives and what they experience. It is probably best to stay that way unless you are prepared to be in for a shocker.
The Girl on the Train written by Paula Hawkins is a page-turner. It is one of those books you might want to drop everything you are doing so you can get to the last page in one sitting. The characters in the book are not likeable but they get your attention and somehow you empathize with their sufferings some of which appear to be self-indulgent. There are three unreliable narrators, Rachel, Anna and Megan. Rachel is a self-loathing alcoholic and she has lost her job due to her drinking problem. She is broken and a cliché of a damaged individual. Anna is the woman who is married to Rachel’s ex husband, Tom. She and Tom have a child and they live in the same house that Rachel used to live with Tom. She is happy with her life but for Rachel who does not seem to stay away. Every day Rachel takes 8.04 train from Asbury to Euston. She has a perfect view into a trackside house. It is number fifteen, Blenheim Road and she used to live at number twenty-three on the same road. She sees a picture perfect couple and imagines the life they live. She names them Jason and Jess when their names are Scott and Megan. When Rachel commutes on the train, she sees Megan and Scott and imagines the life she could have had if she were still married to Tom. As the story unfolds, Megan goes missing one day and Rachel has seen something that has shocked her when she is on the train. Due to her drinking problems, the police finds that she is an unreliable witness.
Rachel feels unattractive and undesirable. She is a very lonely woman and she struggles to keep afloat.
“ I am not the girl I used to be . I am no longer desirable, I am off- putting in some way. It is not just that I’ve put on weight , or that my face is puffy from the drinking and the lack of sleep ; it’s as if people can see the damage written all over me , they can see it on my face ,the way I hold myself, the way I move. “
Not only Rachel’s narration is unreliable so are Megan’s and Anna’s. Megan has a dark secret that she is not telling Scott. You know she is extremely troubled and depressed. She has insomnia and difficulties telling things to anyone, whether it is Scott or strangers. Scott suggests that she has to see a therapist and she ends up seeing Kamal, a mental health professional. Her big brother, Ben is the big hole in her life . She and Ben were going to be road trippers. They had dreamt of following Che Guevara’s tracks from Bueno Aires to Caracas but she did not get to do all that as Ben died on A10 in a motor accident but that was not the crux of what has been troubling her.
'So , I’m going to see a therapist! Which could be weird, but it could be a laugh, too. I’ve always thought that it might be fun to be Catholic, to be able to go to the confessional and unburden yourself and have someone tell you that they forgive you, to take all the sin away, wipe the slate clean.'
‘She’s missing.Jess is missing. Megan is missing. Since Saturday. I googled her- the story appeared in the Witney Argus, but with no further details. I thought about seeing Jason- Scott - this morning , standing on the terrace, looking at me , smiling at me.I grabbed my bag and got to my feet and ran out of the library , into the road, right into the path of a black cab.’
Megan Hipwell is missing and Rachel tries to tell the police what she thinks she knows.
Rachel is barren and she is not allowed to get away with it. Failure to conceive cloaks her like a mantle. When she and Tom were trying for a baby, she was not having a drinking problem. As it turned out, Tom was virile since he managed to impregnate Anna. When a guy drinks a lot, he is just partying and having fun. When a woman drinks, she is frowned upon. Rachel has to clean herself up. Your heart does go to her as you see her fail to quit drinking once and once again. You could feel her sadness and misery.