9 May 2015

Review: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, Paula Hawkins - audio book

Synopsis  (Audible)

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She's even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. 'Jess and Jason', she calls them. Their life - as she sees it - is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she's only watched from afar. Now they'll see; she's much more than just the girl on the train...

My Take:

This story is told by three narrators who identify themselves at the beginning of a chapter by just saying their name. The producer of the audio version has replicated these narrators by using three  readers with distinct voices. That means "reading" it as an audio novel is probably not the best strategy, particularly as the time frame zig zags, with some narrators playing "catch up", so the reader is really never sure when events occurred, in relation to each other. With an audio novel you don't have the opportunity that a hard copy gives you of being able to flip back a few pages to check on a date or who is speaking. I suspect that if I had been reading a hard copy I might even have been tempted to write dates down and group events around them.

Add to that the fact that the principal narrator, Rachel, who is the "girl on the train", is an alcoholic and is frequently drunk. The police sum it up when they say that her evidence is unreliable. Rachel herself is the first to admit this because there are great holes in her memory. She has flashbacks in the form of dreams, and she is never sure whether they are things she has actually seen or whether it is her imagination at work. However as she begins to "dry out" bits of her memory returns. All she has to do is work out which memories to trust.

Rachel has lost her job in London because she came back from lunch drunk, having insulted one of her firm's biggest clients. She has been keeping up the pretence of going to work on the train so her flatmate will not know that she has no income.  She desperately wants to be accepted by people, and to overcome her feelings of rejection by her ex-husband. At night when she is drunk she tends to ring him in the middle of the night and even turns up at his house, where she also used to live, and frightens his new wife by taking their baby out of the bassinet. Just coincidentally their house is just a few doors down from the house where "Jess and Jason" live.

And then she sees something from the train which changes all their lives forever.

So it is a novel that really makes the reader work alongside Rachel at solving the mystery.
A number of reviewers have remarked on what a remarkable accomplishment the novel is, and I tend to agree. I have to list it among my best reads for this year.

My rating: 4.9

About the author
Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction.
Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller.


    Kay said...

    This has certainly been the book everyone has been talking about this year. I read it a couple of months back and enjoyed it mostly. I think I like it better now that time has passed. Will be interested in seeing what else this author produces.

    Anonymous said...

    I do keep hearing about this one, Kerrie. Glad you enjoyed it so well.

    Katy McCoy said...

    I couldn't get into this book at all. So much hype. So you sit down to read it, expecting something great, and you get this whiny, feel so sorry for herself, crummy roommate and stalker. I thought it was obvious from the git-go that she was likely an alcoholic, that she wasn't working, and then that part went on and on and on. I read until she sees what she sees and at that point, I still wasn't interested in what would happen next. There are so many better books.

    Anonymous said...

    I wasn't going to try this one because of all the hype and that it's a best-seller here, but that often isn't a recommendation.

    I may try it now but with reservations. I don't usually like unreliable narrators, but this may be unusual enough to be interesting. One can only try and if it's a library book, then no financial loss.

    Clothes In Books said...

    I enjoyed this one too Kerrie, but am impressed that you managed it as an audiobook - interesting how they tried to get round the problems. Still an achievement by you and the narrators that you could enjoy it so much.

    Bernadette said...

    Finally finished it. Don't think it's possible I could disagree more about a book :)


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