I received my copy of this book from the publishers via Net Galley and this is my honest review of the book.
Who of us hasn't sneaked a glimpse at houses as we pass them on the train? Who of us hasn't imagined the residents, what they do and what they get up to? Everyday as Rachel travels to Euston station, she stares out at the houses near the railway track in Witney. She is hoping to take a glimpse at Jess and Jason, a couple she has come to name and imagine. She has given them identities and imagines their perfect relationship. She holds this as an anchor as her own life slips away into the bottom of a wine glass. Divorced from her husband, she calls him and his new wife, often turning up drunk to their house, which happens to be a few doors away from Jess and Jason. One day she sees something that shocks her and then sees the news that 'Jess' is actually Megan, and that Megan has disappeared. Desperate to be involved, sure that she knows something, but unable to remember what, Rachel becomes embroiled in the lives of Megan and her husband, unaware of the dangers that she faces.
There has been much excited talk amongst reviewers, bloggers and the press about this debut from Paula Hawkins. I was therefore eager to read this and see if it lived up to my expectations. At first, if I'm honest, it didn't. Not that there was anything wrong with the writing or the story, just that I think I had built up the expectation in my head that this would be a novel I couldn't put down and that would grab me from the start. It didn't but it grew on me, the more I read.
The story is told by Rachel, Megan and Anna, the new wife of Rachel's ex-husband, Tom. This narrative allows the reader to build up a picture of each character and what has happened in the lead up to Megan's disappearance.
My first thoughts for Rachel were pity, and slight annoyance. Rachel had met struggles in her life. She, unfortunately, couldn't deal with those problems and so sought refuge in drink. The cost had been her job, her home and her marriage. She has blackouts and these concern her. She feels or has been told she has done bad things through these blackouts but cannot snatch enough of the truth to know for sure. This is following her around. She snatches the chance to be involved in the investigation of Megan's disappearance. At first, it was this pity that lead me to be unsure as to the story. Every time Rachel had a drink my heart sank a little. However, much like the story, she grew on me the more I read her tale. As she looks more into the disappearance of Megan, more of herself becomes discovered and she finally finds the key to moving on with her life and the strength to battle her problems with alcohol.
Both Megan and Anna were characters I found hard to like, yet this was part of the story. Megan had reasons as to her issues, which I can't go into here for fear of spoiling the story. There was a particular aspect of Megan's history that I personally found heartbreaking and went a long way to explain how she had developed into the person she was. As for Anna, I had little sympathy for her. I am particularly harsh when it comes to thoughts on 'the other woman' but I didn't feel sorry for her when she had issues with Rachel contacting her husband, Tom.
There is a sense of sadness that runs through this novel, and this combined with the almost palpable sense of malice, fear and misgiving that makes the reader want to continue. I can imagine that Hitchcock, were he still alive, would want to make this into a film and it has indeed been described as Rear Window meets Gone Girl. Having not read the latter I can't make any comparisons, nor would I want to as I like to take each book I read on its own merits, but this description gives you an idea on the type of story this book tells.
I had worked out what was going on and who had done what to whom at an early stage. However this just encouraged me to read the book, so I could prove myself right as it were. I found myself racing through the latter stages of the book. An enjoyable, entertaining read.