I once read a book by a former alcoholic where she described giving oral sex to two different men, men she’d just met in a restaurant on a busy London high street. I read it and I thought, I’m not that bad. This is where the bar is set.
oh, yeah – this one is going to be a must-read for those people looking to find their next Gone Girl experience. it’s an incredibly fast-paced and engrossing psychological thriller, and i was on board as soon as i read the editor’s bit of ARC-copy, even though i know that writing those things is part of the job and not at all unbiased. but it’s hard not to be swayed when you read:
Within days of my introducing the manuscript in March, people from every department were regularly pulling me aside to testify to how much they loved the read, how they couldn’t put it down. At a recent meeting, a colleague who was twelve pages from the end was secretly reading them under the table because she could not stop. Another had the manuscript propped up next to her phone so she could read between calls, and last week in the elevator, people around me suddenly started competing over who’d read it fastest, and who was more surprised by the ending. You know you have something special when it becomes watercooler talk for months on end.
it would take a very stubbornly cynical person to see that as anything other than genuine enthusiasm.
and the book definitely delivers. it is an absolute page-turner with a number of unreliable narrators ranging from the self-deluded to the spotty memory of the blackout drunk.
i am too busy reading on my daily commute to notice my fellow passengers unless they are smelly/behaving in an unstable manner (frequently), or exceptionally attractive (MUCH less frequently), but apparently this is a thing that commuters do – notice their fellow travelers, making up stories about their lives, speculating about what they do when they’re not in the in-between moments of their day. and rachel does it more than most. rachel is blisteringly lonely, drowning the sorrows of her failed marriage with grim determination and canned gin and tonics and endless bottles of wine. she has lost her job because of her perpetual drunkenness, but rather than tell her flatmate, she keeps taking the train into london every day, pretending to go to work, but actually just getting drunk in various places, and happily fantasizing about the young couple she watches every day from her train window; a couple who live a few doors down from her old house, where her ex-husband tom still resides with his new wife and baby girl.
still reeling from tom’s infidelity to her, she nonetheless would love to be back with him, and in this golden couple she observes and imagines, calling them “jess and jason,” she sees the life she could have had with tom. one day, while commuting/gazing voyeuristically, she witnesses “jess” on her front lawn with another man, in what appears to be a romantic clinch. she is outraged at this display, as personally offended as if the infidelity were being committed against herself. shortly after this episode, she learns that “jess,” actually named megan, has disappeared, and feeling connected to this couple she has never actually met, she insinuates herself into the investigation, meeting with both the police and megan’s husband, actual name scott.
the story is told from three perspectives: rachel’s, megan’s, and tom’s new wife anna, and covers all the traditional viewpoints of the typical domestic drama: the jilted lover, the other woman, the cheating wife. all three of these women are simultaneously sympathetic and repellent, which is tricky to pull off. and as for the mystery of megan’s disappearance itself, well that path splits and splits again in a wonderful head-spinning journey where not a single character avoids suspicion (except MAYBE tom and anna’s infant daughter); i think there are seven characters in total who appear to be the culprit at one point or another, and each seems as plausible as the next. it is a fantastic ride, and hawkins does a great job with both the mystery elements and the character development, with great attention to detail, and fully established backstories and motivations. even when you cringe at some of the choices, they completely make sense for the character. it is a lot of fun, and terribly addictive. much better than a meeting, i kid you not.