January 23, 2017 by femvestige
“I once read a book by a former alcoholic where she described giving oral sex to two different men, men she’d just met in a restaurant on a busy London high street. I read it and I thought, I’m not that bad. This is where the bar is set.” -The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Rachel Watson is the most pathetic main character of a novel I have ever read. She is a 33-year-old woman, divorced, unemployed, and an alcoholic.
It’s not that I don’t feel sympathy for her. I grew up in a home with alcoholism, and as a person affected by it – I can account for the realistic effects that the disease portrays in the novel. Because of this personal experience, I believe that Rachel’s character development was real and natural throughout the novel’s timeline. She was the only character who I felt had any character development though which is sad.
Rachel’s alcoholism is spawned two-fold.
A. Rachel is barren and cannot have children. This affected her so deeply that she turned to drink to dull her pain.
B. Rachel’s husband Tom cheated on her with another woman because he could no longer deal with her pain and depression. He left her for this other woman and promptly impregnated her before marrying her.
Rachel drinks, and then she blacks out. She feels so much guilt in the unknown that she drinks again. It’s a brutal cycle. She loses her job because she becomes drunk at work and loses her public relations firm a client. She almost loses her home because her roommate becomes so fed up with Rachel’s inability to cope and clean up after her drunken nights.
Her alcoholism is the entire premise for our story. ‘Something terrible has happened’ and she cannot remember anything because she had gone ‘deepest black.‘ Vague memories of blue dresses, ginger-haired men, and the underpass by the train tracks confuse her. She is an ‘unreliable witness.’ It is Rachel’s status as an unreliable witness that causes her to have a purpose and attempt to pull the pieces of her life together. She knows something terrible has happened, and she is determined to be helpful for once in her life. She has slip-ups because that’s what alcoholics do.
When our story climaxes, Rachel is the strongest we have seen her yet. She seems to have almost switched places with her ex-husbands now current wife/past mistress Anna. Rachel encourages Anna that they need to leave because the man that has defined her has betrayed them both. It is Rachel’s strength and stubbornness to be useful, to not be unreliable that allows her to see the truth within her deepest black memories.
In the end, Rachel is newly recovering alcoholic who is trying to recover from trauma.
I did not like this book. I did not like most of the characters. I must give Rachel credit – she is every woman’s worst nightmare. She is the woman where you stop and think “dear God, I hope I don’t end up like that.” She knows this – and that may be the worst thing to know about yourself. She knows this, and she still tries. There’s a lot of courage and development in that. If I could say anything to Rachel, I would tell her that her bar is set higher than that.