Gone Girl, it was inevitable that others would try to recreate its success themselves. It's pretty clear that Paula Hawkins took note of what made Gillian Flynn's book so popular, and then used some of those same elements and methods of storytelling for her first novel. Fortunately she did so remarkably well. Like its predecessor, The Girl on the Train uses alternating narrators, with Rachel, the primary narrator, offering an unreliable account of what takes place in order to keep the reader guessing and making assumptions till the end.
Rachel is recently divorced and losing her fight against alcoholism, which destroyed her marriage, and is continuing to derail her life. Every day she rides the commuter train into and out of London for her job. Each day the train has to make a brief stop behind the street where the house she once lived in with her ex-husband Tom resides. So twice a day she has to spend a brief minute trying to avoid looking in through the rear windows of the house, where Tom and the woman he left Rachel for, live with their new baby daughter. Instead, she tries to focus on one of the houses a few houses down the street. It's owned by a young couple, obviously deeply in love and living the type of life Rachel always thought she'd end up having.
One day, while the train is stopped, Rachel sees something take place at the house she's been watching, and soon after, she sees on the news that the wife has disappeared. She's convinced that what she saw take place in the house is connected with the wife's disappearance and she tries to insert herself into the police investigation, and into the lives of those involved. Unfortunately, her binge drinking and subsequent blackouts make her at best, an unreliable witness.
In a genre typically dominated by male protagonists who are strong, assured, and powerful, this newly-popular breed of thrillers is a welcome change, and Paula Hawkins has shown that she has every right to stand right next to Gillian Flynn there.
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