The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins books


There’s a literary technique called “the unreliable narrator,” in which – surprise, surprise – you can’t trust the narrator. In Girl, there are three unreliable narrators, each of whom describes, diary-style, the events leading up to a murder. Mostly, we hear from Rachel, an unemployed and divorced alcoholic who suffers from drunken blackouts. She also rides a train to and from London, hoping to fool her flatmate into believing she’s still gainfully employed. One day, Rachel gets off the train and, in an advanced state of inebriation, witnesses … something bad. But what was it? She doesn’t remember.

I really like the author’s use of poor, pathetic Rachel as the protagonist. If you’ve ever suffered an alcoholic blackout, you know that it isn’t what you recall from the night before that’s a problem; it’s what you don’t recall.  That’s a perfect set-up for a heroine who might or might not have witnessed something horrendous.

What I didn’t care for: the story’s ending, which is a bit predictable and melodramatic to the point of silliness. Must the villain, finally unmasked, fall into that tired cliché of confessing all to everyone within earshot, practically cackling and hissing while doing so? Still, until that disappointing ending, this is a plausible, suspenseful thriller.


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