The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

On the surface, Rachel, the girl on the train, appears to be the ordinary commuter. Catching the same train every day, she observes life and in particular, the life of those who live in the trackside houses. Her journey provides an escape, it allows her to break away from her compulsive drinking, self-pitying and relentless thoughts of her ex-husband, Tom, and his new family – living in their old home.

‘Jess and Jason’, a beautiful couple whose terrace balcony can be seen from the train, provide much entertainment for Rachel’s imagination – she feels as though she knows the intricate details of their perfect life at 15 Blenheim Road. Staggering through each day, Rachel provides an obsessive account of the couple’s life, as she images it. One day, she is shocked by what she sees. Shortly afterwards, she recognises the face of ‘Jess’ on the front of a newspaper – she has vanished. Between her alcoholism and blackouts, Rachel becomes knotted in the lives of the couple, attempting to tell the police everything she knows:  the blue dress, the red-haired man, the underpass, her bleeding lip.

Emulating Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Hawkins demonstrates the gripping nature of juggling perspectives, including the flawed and undependable protagonist. The Girl on the Train builds unanticipated empathy, alluring characters, enthralling twists, guesses and second guesses.

Atonement – Ian McEwan

It is 1934, the English summer is blooming and the heat is setting in on the Tallis country house. Within this deceptively docile setting, the Tallises prepare for the return of Leon, the oldest brother.

Both Cecilia and Briony, the younger sisters, have reservations about the evening to come. That their three cousins were staying with the Tallises to escape from a bitter domestic feud, does not matter to Briony. Her mind solely revolving around turning her cousins into puppets of her imagination, she is only able to think about the evening’s performance. Cecelia, however, struggles with emotion, knowing infatuation and confusion over her childhood friend, Robbie Turner – who will be attending the homecoming.

By the end of the long summer day, the Tallises and Turners have become victims of the precocious and destructive imagination of thirteen-year-old Briony – whose life will be defined by her crime and reparation.

Whilst the start of the book is perversely un-gripping, the latter parts of this unique story absorb the reader. Throughout the novel, McEwan orchestrates intricate themes of class, guilt and animosity. Though, at its heart, the novel is about the subjugating power of love.

This novel is an engrossing story of one child’s need to atone her lies. The binding and irrevocable wrongdoing within the novel will inevitably encompass the reader.