This is a tale of hidden fears and desires that we keep submerged for fear of overwhelming us as we navigate the world.
The things we dislike most in others are the characteristics we like least in ourselvesMarian Keyes
I loved the format of how we got to know both women portrayed in the book: the internal monologue of Violet and the emails of Carrie. They are different in their own way but both unlikeable characters whose neediness and vulnerabilities were off putting.
It’s to the author’s skill in making the story engaging, a page-turner even despite the reader cringing and drawing away from the women and their actions.
When two strangers end up sharing a cabin on the Trans-Siberian Express, an intense friendship develops, one that can only have one ending … a nerve-shattering psychological thriller from bestselling author SJI Holliday
Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.
Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.
When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.
Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…
A tense and twisted psychological thriller about obsession, manipulation and toxic friendships, Violet also reminds us that there’s a reason why mother told us not to talk to strangers.. ~Goodreads blurb
Violet’s internal landscape revealed her to be an unstable person that she struggled hard to contain but was quite good at keeping under wraps, for short periods and interaction. Violet’s pronouncements, statements of facts and unshakeable beliefs woven from the slimmest of threads are soon exposed to the reader.
This is seemingly in contrast to Carrie who seems open, rational and a good sport. A combination that makes you start to worry just a little about what may befall Carrie at the hands of Violet. However, it doesn’t take too long – with a throwaway line here, an email there, to make you realise just how similar they are: burying secrets inside, putting on a façade and trying not to be hurt, by hurting first.
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. Everyone is our mirror.Carl Jung
As their journey continues it becomes evident that Carrie and Violet independently of each other quickly grew to dislike aspects of the other. Convenience brought them together and indolence kept them together. There were lots of metaphorically biting of tongues, bristling, or inner mirth at the thought of pulling one over on the other.
It almost feels like staying in a bad. relationship because it’s too much effort to let the other person know: it’s not them, it’s you – you’re so over them. You rationalise the effort of least resistance by thoughts confirming ‘it’s not like they’re really bad’. It’s just that you don’t like/love them anymore and it makes no odds to stick it out disinterestedly until you finally give up the ghost, make the effort and move on.
Actually on reflection, in this case it is actually the other person – they are bad.
Why it’s so good
It is as if they can not lie to themselves and others for long, without giving themselves away – the truth will out, especially on a long journey together at close quarters, the mask is not easily maintained.
Violet the character is deliciously written, her small reveals which are at turn disconcerting, unpleasant, or repellent eventually culminates into the realisation that she is dangerously obsessive, retaliatory and unpredictable. What a combination! Terrifying in real life, a boon for a story like this.
Carrie fakes the happy go lucky traveling girl well, in that you almost don’t read between the lines of her emails to see what she’s letting slip, if her actions match her words. And when you do, that when you start drawing the dots together.
This novel was a slow burn for revelations that you can feel coming – if it’s too good to be true, then how likely is it to last? I enjoyed this, in particular, the twist and turns very much, and only felt that it lost its way towards the end, which is why it’s not a 4 star rating.
A thrilling read, that keeps you coming back for more – on the off chance that you haven’t read it in one sitting – and keeps you thinking about life and chance long after you’ve finished it.
3 stars – liked it