Book No 34 : The Girl On the Train

Commuting is a tiresome business. Squashed, sweaty, no seats, same old, same old. Rachel travels in to Euston every day, but instead of doing something useful like reading a novel or teaching herself Mandarin, she stares out of the windows. The main object of her scrutiny is the street where she used to live with her husband, Tom. He still lives there but with his new wife, Anna and their baby, Evie. A few doors down Blenheim Road lives another young couple, Jason and Jess: Rachel watches and notices things about them, sees them out on their terrace together. Only they aren’t called Jason and Jess, that is just Rachel’s fantasy; their names are actually Scott and Megan. When Megan goes missing, Rachel may have seen something which could help find her. The difficulty is that Rachel drinks; and she drinks so much that sometimes she can’t remember exactly what she did see.

The novel is narrated by three alternate characters; Rachel, Megan and Anna. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that the three women are interlinked in more ways than were obvious at first. Despite the immense hype around this thriller, comparing it to other successful publications such as ‘Gone Girl‘ and ‘Before I Go to Sleep‘, I was not taken with it. Characters don’t have to be unfailingly kind, generous and witty for me to enjoy a book, there is a lot of enthralling literature about dark and evil people. But the cast of Hawkins’ book is perpetually gloomy; the females are unreliable and untrustworthy, the men are duplicitous and violent. Even the baby grizzles. As the narration itself is well-suited to a suburban London setting i.e grey and repetitive, the plot needed to be extraordinary to lift the novel out of the doldrums. Sadly, I didn’t think it was as although there is a twist in the end, it was predictable.

Two-thirds of the way through reading ‘The Girl on the Train‘, I pondered what I would do if the book was swept out of my hands by a huge tidal wave: would I be so desperate to discover Megan’s fate that I would swim against an oceanic tide to recover it? Sadly not, I concluded. I would have been quite happy to let it drift away. Hardly a recommendation, I know, but life is too short to be a trainspotter.

Book No 2 (2014) : Appletree Yard

AppTreeYardThis was the book I read in one sitting. Louise Doughty has written a page-turning thriller, charting the descent of a respectable woman into a world which contrasts sharply with her hitherto conservative life.

The book begins and concludes with Yvonne’s court trial for a crime which is revealed towards the end of the book. Trying to figure out what she has done, is a puzzle for the reader.

It’s certainly compelling, but I have an issue with the central premise of the book. Which is that Yvonne, the central character, embarks upon a passionate affair with a man she meets whilst working in London. Well, it’s not really an affair – even Yvonne describes it as ‘Sex. And coffee’. She doesn’t know the chap’s name, or what he does for a living, or where he lives.

Maybe I have had a sheltered life but I am the same age (more or less) as Yvonne and life can be a little pedestrian sometimes. Nevertheless, I am not going to let some strange bloke s**g me in an underground crypt, just because he smiled nicely at me over a latte! Throughout the whole book, my rational brain was screaming ‘but a real person wouldn’t do that’! Or even ‘do that’.

If you can suspend your belief and relish descriptions of knee-tremblers in the back streets of our capital, it’s a great read!