The film adaptation of The Girl On The Train will be released in October. I’m reading the book: it’s an effective thriller, a good page-turner, and it has an unconventional – and infertile – protagonist.
Basically, Rachel descends into batty alcoholism when she can’t conceive with her new husband, whilst all their glossy friends are falling pregnant around them. It gets so bad that they split up, and the husband moves a shiny new woman in and rapidly impregnates her.
Rachel even breaks into their home one day and ‘steals’ the baby for a few minutes, for no good reason. She can’t hold down a job: pretending that she is taking the train to work every day so she won’t be evicted. She leaves piss-soaked clothes at the bottom of the stairs and has major booze blackouts, returning covered in blood. Toddlers playing in the park destroy her – too painful. She is the proverbial sad, wizened, vengeful husk, yet she’s only in her early thirties.
All the tropes of the crazy barren woman are present, neatly juxtaposed with Anna, the ex-husband’s new partner. Anna sails along in a ‘bubble of happiness‘ engendered just by looking at her beautiful family; she secretly revels in the fact that her joyful fecundity is causing such misery in Rachel, her sterile nemesis.
It’s mere fiction, just a quality airport thriller, but I wonder how rooted in reality these themes are, and do women identify with Rachel at all, or Anna?
I know that in my darkest days, even though I was perpetually ambivalent about having kids, the prospect of my partner leaving to impregnate someone else was the apex of all my fears, harbinger of cold sweats in the early hours. My anxieties about ending up a lone spinster would spiral catastrophically, irrationally. I even broached the subject of him having a vasectomy, to render it less possible.
I have mellowed now: you can’t sustain that kind of nuttiness. But what if it had happened? Is Rachel ever a possibility, in your average woman?
And when they arise, where do such thoughts come from: are they something instinctive, primeval in women? Do unequivocally childfree woman ever have them, too? Do any mothers secretly identify with Anna: is a bit of smugness irresistible when faced with a horror story like Rachel?
Book’s got me wondering.