I heard about Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train long before I read it. As with many books released recently, the claims for why it should be next on my reading list were huge, with reviews hailing it as the next Gone Girl. This was essentially the reason I stayed away.
However, the furore over this book just wasn't going away, so I decided to bite the bullet and see what the fuss was all about. And while sceptical to begin with – as I always am with books that everyone seems to be fawning over – from the start I was hooked.
The Girl on the Train follows the protagonist, Rachel, as she makes the train journey twice a day to London and back. From the very early stages the reader gets a sense that not everything is as it seems, emphasised by her habit of enjoying the odd tipple here and there... every day. As the novel continues we see how unhinged Rachel really is and, in turn, the reader must question how far she can be trusted.
As in many thrillers released in recent years, the chapters are narrated by different characters – sometimes offering conflicting information. So who exactly can we trust? As the main character, surely Rachel? Maybe, but then, maybe not.
The Girl on the Train is a fantastic read - gripping and intriguing. Is it similar to Gone Girl? Yes. For me, the key similarity is their unreliable narrators. Use of this literary device has soared in recent years – especially within the thriller genre, but it's hard to work out why.
Google 'unreliable narrator thriller' and a plethora of links will come up leading you to various books that all boast different tag lines in order to make themselves stand out. But the unreliable narrator is no new device. The Great Gatsby, The Yellow Wallpaper and American Psycho are all great examples of its usage. The list of those who don't do it well is longer than Rachel’s twice-daily train journey to London.
So yes, in ways The Girl on the Train is similar to Gone Girl, but who wouldn't want to imitate the success of that book and subsequent film? And, with many others now striving towards the successful destination of The Girl on the Train, it looks like the unreliable narrator is here to stay.
Words: Katy Gearing