Published by: Doubleday; First Edition (15 Jan. 2015)
I'll steer clear of spoilers here as I know that there are still a few people who have not yet read this book! It made it on to my extensive to be read pile for a couple of reasons. First, I'd just invested in a Kindle and was wanting to try it out when an offer came through to purchase it for £1.79. Secondly, I wanted to read something current. There was a discussion going on and I was keen to join in.
The book's premise is, by now, fairly well known. It is written primarily from the viewpoint of Rachel, a woman in her early thirties who spends a serious amount of time staring out of the window of a train during her daily commute into London. She passes this time building up a fantasy world around the people she sees by way of compensation for the things that are lacking in her own life.
It is written in the first person, present tense, and it may take a few pages to adapt to this if it is not what you are used to. But that is as long as it will take, I promise. The immediacy of the writing, the access it gives to Rachel's thoughts, quickly drew me in and I could not rest until every layer of character and plot had been revealed.
At the heart of the book there is a mystery which unravels through the multiple viewpoints of three different women (although we stay largely with Rachel) and it is the combination of this mystery and the detailed and realistic way in which the characters are drawn which had me racing through to the end. The intimacy which was developed with the characters really took hold, pulling me into their world and compelling me to finish the book in just three days when really I should have been doing other things. It has been a while since that has happened to me and I was glad of it.
After finishing the book and posting my review on Goodreads, I read through some of the other comments. Inevitably there were plenty of one and two star reviews alongside the many five star appraisals (my own included). The main problems the detractors had were:
1) There were no nice/good/admirable characters. True, perhaps, but it didn't bother me. Most characters in most books are flawed in some way and the first person narrative really shows up every weakness a character has. I wonder how many people we would like in real life if we had access to their every thought?
2) The ending was predictable. I disagree with this. It was guessable, certainly, but that is part of the book's appeal and there were so many suspects and red-herrings that there could have been any number of viable endings. Yes, I had my suspicions and ultimately I was right, but I still needed to know how it would resolve and I would not have felt cheated had it ended in a different way.
So, in summary, a five-star (if uncomfortable in places) read for me based on devourability (new word I've just made up, there), excellent writing and the cleverness on the part of the author in dragging me, cringing, into Rachel's rock-bottom world.
I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
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