LBC Medusa – The Girl on the Train – Write Up

LBC Medusa 

Date:  Wednesday 8th of July 2015
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 



* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
  * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *  

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…


the-girl-on-the-trainWe all of us agreed that this was one of those books that once you start, you feel compelled to read on. A few of us dedicated hours that could have usefully been employed doing many MANY other things just to keep up with the ever increasing, beautifully managed pace of the story.

Some amongst our group – those who tended to only read one or two thriller style books a year – also admitted to being determined to read this quickly, while still held under its spell, before the plot hours and devices became too obvious to ignore. We’ve been burned in the past by books that were great in the moment but couldn’t withstand deeper scrutiny. This was summed up about 3 minutes into our discussion when one of our number noted that ‘it was a good afternoons read, however the more I think about it, the more I HATE it’.

Structurally, we all responded favourably to the three person narrative, set in two time lines. This meant that we were constantly world building and had to pay attention to who was doing the narration and when. Though of course, we did have a quibble about the blurb…as we do… At no point was Rachel ever merely *a* girl on a train – she was in fact intimately connected with the street and at least one family on it. This is turn led to a rant about the overuse of the word girl when selling novels (though to be fair we did qualify that we didn’t know whether this was always the title/central concept of the book or one chosen by a marketing department somewhere). Especially when Rachel – actually a relatively young woman at 34 years – was initially described as sounding much older physically.

We sidelined for a bit on how frightening it is at how quickly information can be gathered about a person online. Facebook, social networking, instagram… apparently from just a name, people can find out a whole heap about a person.

The characters on the other hand were far less satisfactory to us. Anna seemed to actively devolve as the book progressed. Indeed, she was a substantively more rounded character when being spitefully and wistfully described by Rachel than she is as a narrator. For one or two of us, it was inconceivable that she would have bought into Tom’s story about being unable to see the house. She was in real estate FFS! She knew the market. Holes like this lead many of us to figure out the conclusion faster than might normally be expected.


Megan was delightful but in a very manic pixie trope sort of way. Her backstory on the other hand felt very well realised and genuinely tragic, though I personally chaffed at the idea that she needed to seduce her counselor in order to distort the power balance to get the story out. Hmmmm

Rachel was a great character for most of us. Her narration is unreliable but only because she is lying to herself. Watching her descent into the bottle and her battle to re orientate her memories were particularly powerful scenes. Her relationship with Claire felt realistic and a little bit heartbreaking. I personally could have done without the scooby doo happy ending cure at the end of the novel but hey, redemption comes in mnay forms and good on her.

The male characters on the other hand were the slightest of slight. The most successful con job was between Megan and the man of her affair. Tom never quite seemed visible to many of us. Scott as opposed to Jason was a more foul and creepy creature. His relationship with Rachel felt odd to me but seemed to be perfectly in character to others. Certainly it further maintained the difference between the fantasy of Jason and the real lives before Rachel. However the pacing and the cheap thrill dilemma at the end of every single chapter (usually described away in a matter of lines once that story thread was picked up again) did genuinely keep us hooked.

The two cops were literally prototypes of Good Cop Bad Cop which was a bit frustrating. It seemed to many of us that even within that parameter, the Bad Cop (female) wouldn’t have ignored the information from Rachel.

Then we (by we, read I) became obsessed with the idea of the book being turned into a film and set to picking our ideal cast. And by ideal I mean actors whose names we could remember and with a certain hotness factor.
traingirl 01
Rachel – Emily Blunt* or Anne Hathaway maybe though we were aware that neither lady could be described as Rachel had been of having recently considerably loosened the reigns appearance wise… However, both have portrayed characters with frayed nerves and/or unreliable memories with aplomb.
traingirl 02
Megan – Carey Mulligan – in full wide eyed manic pixie glory. Her turn as Daisy has convinced me that she can make the least likable character sympathetic and gracious.
I would also have put Tuppence Middleton as a contender though the character is possibly a little close to Riley from (the FANTASTIC AMAZING AND AWESOME) Sense8.
traingirl gif
Anna – Naomi Watts was ruled out for being too warm for this vicious character. However, we reckon that Michelle Williams has the capacity to go full biatch with style.
traingirl 03
Tom – Dominic West – especially as he comes across as such a nice guy in interviews.
traingirl 05
Scott – Tom Hardy – he does wander round topless quite a bit…the character that is…
 traingirl 04
Counselor – Javier Bardem (yes please) or Kayvan Novak – soulful eyes… One or two of us were quite happy with Julian Bashir from Deep Space 9 (Alexander Siddig)
 traingirl 06
Oh and any of the Gleesons to portray the random red headed dude.
Yes, at one point it did become necessary for one of our (male) book clubbers to ask if we were guilty of objectifying men. However, I did point out that with a cast that included Emily Blunt/Carey Mulligan and Michelle Williams…I was confident that there were sweeteners for the fellas too!
 traingirl 07
* Sweet Merciful Zeus – Simon you were spot on – we are clearly all of the geniuses!
The film rights for the novel were acquired by Dreamworks on March 24, 2014 with Marc Platt set to produce. On May 21, 2015 it was announced that the director of The Help David Platt would be directing the film based on a script wrtitten by Erin Cressida Wilson. On June 5, 2015 it was announced that British actress, Emily Blunt, was in talks to play the role of Rachel.



For further details, please email me at or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @MedusaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #LBCMedusa!


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