The novel everyone seems to be talking about this year is The Girl on the Train, the debut novel from Paula Hawkins. I didn't expect to like it until I saw a tweet from Stephen King praising it, and then I began to hear people comparing it to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, a novel I enjoyed mightily. So, the next time I was in BAM I picked up a copy (30% off, yo!) and started reading as soon as I finished the book I was currently waist-deep in.
I loved it. I bloody loved it. I wanted to hate it -- I wanted to get a chance to dislike a novel that was so popular -- but I couldn't. This novel is too good -- honestly, it might just be the best debut novel I've ever read. Might being the key-word, or course.
Am I full of crap? Well, usually -- but not on this. I promise.
The story revolves around Rachel, an alcoholic who takes the train into London every day (so that is why it's called The Girl on the Train!) and her wild imagination. She narrates most of the book (although it does switch to two other characters' perspectives a good deal) based on things she imagines, such as the couple she passes everyday on the train. What is their story? There they are, outside and sipping tea every morning. Rachel sees that and can't help but long for it. Her former husband, Tom, left her years before for a younger woman-- it doesn't help that she also has toIts pass their house every morning, as well.
It's obvious Rachel isn't happy, and then the lady who was outside drinking tea every morning disappears. And Rachel gets tangled up in the mystery of what happened to her-- a mystery that keeps the reader enthralled up until the last page. You won't get it from me what happened to the woman, but let me just say it isn't quite what you expect.... Or is it?
As well as dealing with trying to find the missing woman, Rachel must fight her alcoholism, bouts of depression, and lack of a job (which she has been hiding from her roommate by riding into town everyday, pretending to go to work). She has substantial funds from her mother, but the money's running out.
As I said early in this review, this book has drawn several Stephen King comparisons and that made me skeptical. Comparing a writer to Stephen King has become old hat because King has simply done it all, and usually the author being compared to him can't measure up. Luckily, the self-destructive character Paula Hawkins has created of Rachel is astounding, worthy of being in the same league of the best King characters who try hard but always seem to fall short (think Jack Torrance or Arnie Cunningham) -- the reader loves 'em despite their faults. Heck, I usually love these characters because of their faults!
In addition to Rachel, Hawkins has created a very fascinating cast of characters that populate her novel: Tom, Rachel's ex-husband with secrets of his own; Tess, the women who's disappeared; Megan, Tom's new wife. The narrative bounces between Rachel, Tess, and Megan, and it's so cool to see how their life experiences and worldviews differ in some ways and are quite similar in other ways.
If you're still with me, let me sum it up for ya: I loved this novel. Hawkins is a master of suspense and plotting, and she writes with the confidence of a veteran novelist. She uses the tricky unreliable narrator technique exquisitely, a rare feat for any writer -- especially one writing her first book. I have zero complaints, except I wish it could have went on for a hundred more pages or so. One of the best novels of 2015 so far, easily.