Publishers Weekly calls this book a “pyschologically astute debut” and I can’t think of a better description. I had the same reaction to S.J. Watson’s book Before I Go To Sleep.
I’m not even sure where to begin with this review – how much do I reveal about the plot, about the narrative structure? I really don’t want to ruin anyone’s reading experience because this is that book that you really have to read and for so many reasons …
Hawkins has crafted something quite magnificent in this book. Her characters are so complex and layered and wonderfully intricate that I couldn’t stop reading. I literally couldn’t put this book down. I went to work and sat there thinking about what was going to happen next. This book hovered in my mind constantly and still, after having finished it quite some time ago, I am plagued by fragments of it.
What I found most intriguing about this book was the way Rachel, the protagonist, whose life has come apart due in part to her alcoholism and in part to a range of other events, has constructed an imaginary world for herself and indeed for some of the people around her. Every day she boards a train. It is the same train she would board if she were going to work. But she isn’t going to work because she was fired for her drunken behaviour. Instead, she is pretending that her life is fine. That everything is rosy, She is pretending even though to everyone – including the reader – it is plain that things are not fine. Not even close.
In telling Rachel’s story, Hawkins has constructed a clever narrative which splits between the voices of three women: Rachel, Anna and Megan. These women are intertwined in so many ways, both real and imagined and the novel details the unravelling of these connections.
I found myself particularly drawn to the segments of the narrative where Rachel was on the train. Her musings, her stream of consciousness and the way that she is so detached from herself and from reality itself, were captivating and provided the story with a perfect rhythm to balance the action which unfolds.
So far, this is my book of 2015. It’s a must read. At least once. For everyone.