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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 10 November 2016

"The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins

Rachel commutes to London. Every day her train stops at a signal and she looks into the lives of the 'perfect' couple living in the house. Then one day she sees something that destroys the happy picture.

This is the story of three women: Rachel "a barren, divorced, soon-to-be-homeless alcoholic", Anna the new wife of her ex-husband, and Megan whose art gallery has just failed. One of them disappears. What has happened to her and who is responsible?

In many ways this is a standard thriller with a major change in the progress of the plot exactly half way through. Some of the reviews make much of the device of using an alcoholic as an 'unreliable narrator' except that she isn't in the usual sense of the term (a narrator who, deliberately or otherwise, deceives the reader). The alcoholism is used to create a hole in Rachel's memory of the night when something happened and to cast doubt on whether it is Rachel herself who is responsible or whether she witnessed something critical.

Rachel becomes obsessed by the characters in the drama and starts doing her own sleuthing. This meant that she is always returning to the scene of the crime and talking to the suspects, even after she has been warned off by the official police investigators. This is a key part of this sort of story where the suspense is maintained by doling out the clues in tiny slivers, partly to extend the tale and partly so that they can be reconstructed in a variety of patterns. The key to successfully doing this is to make the reader suspend disbelief sufficiently to allow independent investigation.

The character of the alcoholic also allows for a classic story structure in which there can be a moment of enlightenment in the centre followed by a number of backslidings. But repetitive behaviours of any kind can get boring and the author must be careful not to impose too much on the reader's patience. I actually found the character of Anna the new wife more interesting, especially her dilemma near the end of the book.

There were some clever reveals throughout the story.

There were some nice lines:

  • "Life is not a paragraph and death is no parenthesis." (I'm not convinced I understand what the author means about death. A parenthesis can be an explanation, an afterthought or an interlude. Umm??)
  • "I always feel like a guest at the very outer limit of their welcome."


A robust thriller.


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