I love it when books live up to the hype. It makes me want to do a happy dance. And while The Girl on the Train may not be the next great British novel, it is some tawdry fun.
In case you've been living under a rock and haven't heard the basic plot setup, here's the quick and dirty version: Rachel is a commuter, trundling back and forth to London on the train at the same time every morning and evening. She likes to look out at passing houses and imagine lives for the occupants. Harmless, right? Sure, until her imaginings turn into something more real. She begins to believe she knows one particular couple she sees out on their terrace every morning. She gives them names. She gives them jobs, imagines an entire life for them that exists entirely in her head.
When Rachel witnesses something from the train—or thinks she does—she becomes obsessed with finding out the truth of what happened, not just to the man and woman she's observed, but to herself. Because Rachel's fascination with that specific row of houses isn't a coincidence. She used to live a few doors down, and she's been trying to make sense of how she lost that perfect life ever since she left.
What makes the book so twisted (and so fun to read) is Rachel's unreliability as a narrator. She's a heavy drinker and has learned not to trust her own memory, so she's constantly questioning what she sees. To muddy the waters further, there are two other narrators along with Rachel—both women, both intimately involved in Rachel's life in surprising ways—and it's not clear if we can trust their versions of events either.
Don't expect to like any of the characters. I think that's where all the Gone Girl comparisons are stemming from. Just like with Gone Girl, I experienced that slow-dawning, skin-crawling realization that every single one of these people is screwed up in some way. No one is good. No one is altruistic. They've all done horrible, horrible things. And with a single exception, they're not sorry.
The Girl on the Train is a fast-paced, convoluted, stay-up-late-to-finish-it kind of book.