Rachel sees something shocking through the window of the train. Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the police investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
The Girl on the Train has more fun with unreliable narration than any chiller since Gone Girl...Ms. Hawkins’s story has three women to narrate it. But Rachel, the main one, hits a new high in unreliability … Ms. Hawkins keeps all these fibs, threats and innuendoes swirling through her book, to the point where they frighten and undermine each of her characters. None of them really know which of the others can be trusted or believed … One sign of this book’s ingenuity is the way key details are effortlessly omitted. And you’re not apt to miss them until the denouement, when it is pointed out that certain characters never appeared and supposed facts were never explained.
Rachel might as well be wearing a sign that reads ‘Unreliable Narrator’ … It’s difficult to imagine any way these events could be rendered credible, but The Girl on the Train is further impaired by its narrative structure … The fact that Rachel’s first-person voice is so maddening — alternately imprecise and overtly declarative — doesn’t mitigate the reader’s frustration … Readers sometimes conflate the ‘likability’ of characters with a compulsion to care about their fate, but with a protagonist so determined to behave illogically, self-destructively and frankly narcissistically (someone even refers to her as ‘Nancy Drew’), it’s tough to root for Rachel.
The Girl on the Train is well-written and ingeniously constructed — perhaps a bit too ingeniously.The first-person narrator is now Rachel, now Anna, now Megan, and some of Megan’s soliloquies date from long before her disappearance — yet are strategically inserted between present-day chapters related by Rachel and Anna, making the reader feel a bit manipulated. But the portrait of Rachel as a chronic drunk who just might save herself by playing detective is rich and memorable.