Sometimes you have a particular thing in your possession that you think mightn’t good enough for your taste and when you finally get to check that “thing” out, you are like, “why didn’t I do this earlier?” That’s what reading this book was like for me. Allow me to explain a bit.
Rachel Watson, an alcoholic and a divorcee, is living in a town near London with her friend Cathy, commuting to and from London via train every day. Her train stops daily at a signal near a suburb where her ex-husband lives with his wife, in the house she once lived in. She sees a couple in a house near that of her ex’s from the train(she names them Jess and Jason), almost on a daily basis. She is drawn to their perfect life, a life she herself had till recently. One day, she sees a different person in that house and soon after, the woman disappears. The couple is actually Megan and Scott Hipwell. Rachel goes to the police with this information to be of some help and is unwittingly sucked into the investigation. Trouble is, when Megan disappeared, Rachel was in the area too but unfortunately, she was so drunk that cannot remember anything about the night of the incident.
The principal characters in the book, apart from the ones mentioned above, are Rachel’s ex, Tom Watson, and his wife Anna, along with Megan’s doctor and two police officers. The story is written in a diary form with three characters, Rachel, Megan and Anna, putting in their entries. The narrative is nonlinear which adds to the intrigue and creates some confusion in the initial stages. We journey through this book largely in the minds of these three characters, except when there’s some explicit action on the page.
Paula Hawkins, in her debut thriller, which is also a New York Times Bestseller, has taken up an unexceptional premise and built it into a thriller of such extraordinary brilliance that you are forced to keep reading and forget that this is only fiction, not some real-life situation. Less than 1/3rd of the way into the book, the characters are fully formed and the central mystery of the book set up. From there, Ms. Hawkins ratchets the tension so subtly and incrementally that by the time you’re at the climax, which is sensational in itself, you’re, figuratively speaking, chewing your nails. What I also loved about the book is that the characters’ actions are plausible, even when they shouldn’t be doing those things. For instance, you’d like the protagonist of the story, in spite of her being an alcoholic, to not go for the bottle every single time. But that’s what she does, even when she shouldn’t, even when it lands her in ignominious situations. That, I feel, is what separates this book from the good books. This – characters whose mistakes are human – makes it great. The trips in the minds of the characters are amazingly well-written, adding to the believability of the characters. Rachel’s alcoholism is the literary high point of this astonishing book that keeps bowling you over.
Like all good thrillers – and I know this sounds clichéd – there are artful clues scattered here and there throughout the book. An eye sharper than me would surely have detected them much earlier than I did. In my defence, I was so engrossed in the plot that I forgot to look for clues 😀 . Regardless, when the smoke cleared, I was left with a sweet feeling in the back of my mind, a feeling that told me that reading this book was time well-spent, though I ought to have done this earlier, far earlier. 🙂
A must-read. Highly recommended.
Genre : Thriller.
Rating : 5/5.
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