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The Girl on the Train > Question 3: Memories

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

A recurring theme/issue in the book is memory—specifically, the unreliability of Rachel Watson’s memory due to her drinking. Do you think this was used effectively in the storyline? How? What other books have you read that use the concept of (unreliable) memory to further the story? Do you think those books were effective in how they used the concept? Do you think memories can lie? How reliable do you think your own memories are?


message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan (susanopl) | 472 comments Mod
I think the black-outs that Rachel experienced were used very effectively and are very real. I recommend two non-fiction titles. While I haven't read them, I have heard the authors interviewed on radio and read reviews of the books:
Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol
Drunk Mom
Both of the books are available from Oakville Public Library.

I do think memories can deceive (perhaps "lie" is too strong a word). Individuals often create such different memories from the same experience, especially in traumatic situations. When we've had a death in the family, I've found that some of my relatives cope by not remembering things, and others remember details vividly.


message 3: by Emily (last edited Aug 11, 2015 08:33AM) (new)

Emily Stillwell | 10 comments I agree with Susan, "lie" is a strong word. Our truth is always shaped by our reality, our bias, and our experience. We could all experience the same event, and walk away with different feelings, thoughts, and ideas. And these shape our memories. With traumatic events, sometimes we change memories, or "forget" things to cope. Drinking adds another dimension to her memories, as blacking out wipes the memories of traumatic events. Drinking may make someone's memories unreliable in a court of law, but those memories - even if shaped by alcohol are drugs, are still their truth.

In regards to fiction - it reminds me of when you are faced with third person narration, versus first person narration. First person narration only gives you one side, one set of memories, and one "truth".


message 4: by Darrell (new)

Darrell | 55 comments It was interesting how memory was used in the plot--or rather, how missing and confused memory was used. It added to the sense of the main character, Rachel, being unreliable and also meant that anything could happen. Is Rachel the bad guy? Did she do something and not even realize or remember it? I liked how it added tension to the story and kept me on my toes.

I can't think of specific books but I do recall a lot of books on 'false memory' that came out of the 70s during the whole "Satanic panic" thing, when people began to 'discover' cults at every corner and have 'memories' recovered of being a victim of said cults. It was reflected in a lot of the books and movies of that period as well. It's a very interesting and somewhat terrifying thing, especially when one realizes that sometimes memories can be implanted by other people (a la Gaslight). It can also be used to great, and sometimes terrifying, effect in popular culture and literature.


message 5: by Allison (last edited Aug 17, 2015 04:46PM) (new)

Allison | 396 comments Susan wrote: "I think the black-outs that Rachel experienced were used very effectively and are very real. I recommend two non-fiction titles. While I haven't read them, I have heard the authors interviewed on r..."

I might add to Susan's interesting books a pretty good movie by the name of Smashed ... https://opl.bibliocommons.com/item/sh... ... available on DVD or Blu-Ray at the library. It's fascinating for its depiction of a young alcoholic woman experiencing black outs.


message 6: by Allison (new)

Allison | 396 comments As far as books dealing with memory, I am thinking predominately of one I recently finished: Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant.


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