Have you wondered what goes on with the lives of the people who live by the tracks, as you pass them by sitting in your train carriage? That seems to be tagline and premise of the whole story. Now, I realized that they made a movie on this when I was halfway into the story. However, I’ve always thought movies don’t always do justice to the novels that they are based on (and as a result I haven’t abandoned the book and watched the movie instead) With a written novel, you get economy of words, raw emotions of the characters so thoroughly and beautifully described (depending on the skill of the author of course) that it resonates with you deep down to your inner core.
I was quite excited to be reading this as it was highly recommended and as a result I had built up some expectations in my head. For the benefit for my readers who have not yet had the opportunity to enjoy this, I’ll start with a spoiler-free summary. This is primarily the story of Rachel Watson, divorced, no kids, and hung up over her ex-husband. She catches the 8.04am train daily from her home into London. Along the way, the train usually stops at this signal for a few minutes, in which she takes the opportunity to look out the window, making up stories in her mind on what goes on in the lives of families who live in houses whom she can observe.
One day, she notices something shocking about a particular family that she has been observing for some time. Something unexpected. Something she didn’t think was possible, given the stories she has built around them.
Now. There are several interesting aspects here which I love.
1.Rachel frequently drinks, leading to her narration being somewhat ‘unreliable’ (did it really happen?) owing to her frequent blackouts where she forgot what she was doing.
2.She has some connection to the neighborhood in which the above-mentioned family lives.
3. The story is told also from the perspective of the family she saw, as well as her ‘connection’ in the neighborhood.
Man, frequent references to Gin and Tonic and wine in the novel makes me feel like having some too… So, anyway I digress. I enjoyed the pace of this novel, which switches (but not too frequently) between each character, and mostly (but not always) in a chronological fashion. The only part I felt let-down was in the climatic ending. It just seemed, too neatly-tied-up. Some people would disagree with me!
Rating: 4.5/5 (great use of the unreliable narrator, frequent references to alcoholic state of mind, different versions of the story from the main characters. Intricate relationship web nicely woven together. Less than satisfying ending. Just fell short of being a top rated book for me)