Monday, October 10, 2016

The Illustrated Analysis of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Christal Cooper

Right, media photo of Paula Hawkins on the London train.  Attributed to Kate Neil. 

The Illustrated Analysis of

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in hardcover on January 12, 2015 and in softback on July 12, 2016.

It is the first novel written by Paula Hawkins who worked as a journalist for fifteen years before she turned to writing fiction. 

Media photo of Paula Hawkins.  Attributed to Kate Neil 

Mixed Media Painting by Christal Rice Cooper 

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is a psychological thriller and a murder mystery, but on a much deeper level it is about three women – Rachel Watson, Megan Hipwell, and Anna Watson - connected by trauma, pain, a London suburban neighborhood, two men, and a train.

Rachel is still coming to grips with her divorce and her husband’s remarriage to his mistress, Anna, and the existence of their baby girl, Evie.  Rachel and Tom had tried to have children during their five-year marriage, but Rachel was not able to get pregnant, which led her to drinking. 
She is also having trouble of letting go and exhibiting obsessive behavior  – she can’t stop calling Tom, texting Tom, emailing Tom, and finally she can’t stop going to their house, the same house she and Tom once shared – number twenty-three Blenheim Road.
As a result she is unemployed, renting a room from a friend, and drinking to extreme excess.  There is one thing she finds solace from that doesn’t produce a hangover, vomiting, or blackouts – it is the London train.
She loves to listen to its music as the wheels caress the tracks; she loves to feel its vibrations as she rides in its carriage, almost as if it’s a mother and she is the baby protected and loved in the womb.  Finally, she never feels stuck, like she is always going somewhere, taking one step ahead. 
She rides the train Monday through Friday every morning at 8:04 and every evening at 5:56 p.m.  It is when the train makes its scheduled red traffic stop that she finds her greatest escape – at trackside house number fifteen Blenheim Road. 
It is here that the perfect couple lives – Scott and Megan Hipwell.  Every day and every evening she sees this couple, loving, perfect, beautiful, full of laughter and joy.
More importantly she can’t help but notice Megan and imagine her own reality of who Megan is and how perfect she is.  This Megan is her escape, her interpretation for what success is, what happiness is, everything she is not.  
But then she sees something that literally earthquakes her world and the depressed, tired drunk woman is full of energized rage.   Now her only escape and joy that she could find in her black and gray world has been shattered.  And this shattering sends her into a tailspin of sobbing rage – rage enough to want to kill. 
Then she wakes up to find blood on her face and on her hands.  And she can’t remember anything.

       Megan is blond, beautiful, talented, loves to paint but has secrets as well as unresolved pain over two deaths that happened in her life; pain of being a victim of statuary rape over a period of years; and, as a result, to find relief from that pain, Megan seeks sexual liaisons with other men.  This sexual addiction lasts for years and in the end, plays a role in her losing her art studio. 
Even though she is sure of her husband’s love for her, she can only imagine what he would do if he were to find out her secrets.   Or should she say sins.
She tries to fiend fulfillment not in these affairs but in being a nanny for a couple’s baby that lives a few houses down from hers.  But even this doesn’t suffice and she quits. 
Finally she decides to see a psychiatrist – Dr. Kamal Abdick, and is determined that she will get over this.  But then she can’t help but notice that Dr. Kamal Abdick is a very handsome man . .

       Tom chose her over his ex-wife and she feels lucky, especially since she and Tom now have their own little baby girl Evie.  There are just two problems.
Anna never wanted to live in the house that he shared with his ex-wife Rachel.  She begs Tom for them to move to a different location, but he insists they cannot move due to financial reasons.
Rachel will not leave her, Tom and even their daughter Evie alone.  She is constantly calling, sending text messages and the final straw is when she takes baby Evie from their home into the family’s garden.  Anna is now full of panic, paranoia, and she can’t sleep nor focus. 
Anna wants to call the police but Tom tells her he will take care of it; that he doesn’t want to get Rachel in trouble.  Anna knows that Tom feels some guilt for Rachel and the trouble she is in now; after all, Tom left Rachel to be with her.
 But no matter what Tom does Rachel still some how manages to do something else– and this time Anne is even more panicked when she realizes that Rachel has been spending time with Scott, Megan’s husband – and she’s been spending time with Scott since Megan has disappeared. 
Anna is scared for herself and her family, but Anne also knows she should be scared of something else.  She just doesn’t know who or what that something else is. 

       These three women share a bond so strong – the bond of pain, escaping from that pain, which is the condition of the world today.  We all respond differently to traumas -  rather it be alcohol, food, caffeine, sex, - the book delves into the mystery of a vanishing woman, who ends up being murdered, but more importantly the books explores the mystery of how we as women and men handle our grief, pain, and trauma.

        It also explores the question of at what risk should we as humans continue to escape from our pain?  These women escape through sexual addiction, construed reality, alcohol addiction, obsessive behavior, grandiose thoughts, and self-denial.  It seems to work – but only for a moment. 

       The Girl On The Train is all of us – trying to find some distraction from our boring, painful or just unsatisfactory lives.  We may not be on a train waiting for it to stop at the red light so we can view the beautiful couple on number fifteen Blenheim Road – but we are that person who sits at their sofa every night immersed in television or in bed at night immersed in a book.

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