Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins

Publication date: 5th May 2016
Publisher: Black Swan
Pages: 409


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…

Source: Goodreads


I may be a little late too the party, but I’ve finally finished Paula Hawkins‘ unsettling psychological thriller “Girl on the Train.” Once the story everyone was talking about, I had very high expectations for the story which already been made into a blockbuster and was reported as being the new “Gone Girl“.

I must say the rave reviews for the ‘global bestseller’ were right. I was easily drawn in and captivated by the story of alcoholic miserable divorcee Rachel, commuting to and from London everyday despite being fired months ago. As a London commuter and a previous traveller on the same Southeastern train morning and night for two and a half years, I could easily relate to Rachel’s journeys. I’d often find myself looking out the window at the same houses, fields and streets. But luckily that’s where the similarities between me and Rachel end.

“I’d rather be here, looking out at the houses beside the track , than almost anywhere else.”

I felt a strong sense of sympathy, love and affection towards Rachel. While other reviews seem to find her character unlikable, I could easily see beneath the bottles of wine and cans of gin and tonic to see the woman she once was, before her life began to slip. To forget about the woes and failures of her own life, Rachel becomes fixated on a couple she can see from the train window, imagining their lives and even giving her story’s characters names, jobs and histories. But the story of ‘Jess’ and ‘Jason’ is not as perfect as Rachel imagined. As Rachel watches through the carriage window, she sees something she can’t keep to herself, yet as an unreliable alcoholic with apparent stalking tendencies, no one will believe what she has seen. A mystery develops as artistic Megan goes missing, the same night Rachel has a drunken blackout. As Rachel tries to piece everything together, our protagonist quickly finds herself entwined in the mess of Blenheim Road.

Hawkins writes from various perspectives; miserable jilted Rachel, her ex-husband’s bitchy new wife Anna and missing Megan, the girl she named Jess in her perfect commuter dreamworld. I enjoyed each view and appreciated the tact of Hawkins’ writing, keeping her readers intrigued with every cliff hanger. Each character is as messed up as the last, their husbands equally as complex and as the truth unfolds it is clear to see that none of them can be trusted.

I enjoyed this book and found myself talking about it with those around me, but I wouldn’t say it was perfect. While the varying perspectives of the three women gave detail and clarity to the story, the dates interspersed throughout time had me flicking back and forth to work out what was going on. Megan’s chapters are set a couple of months prior to the others and I found the dates before each paragraph needed a review in order to follow and stay up to date.

The story developed into its much talked about twist, and as I mentioned previously, I had high expectations. However I must say that the ending disappointed me, I could eventually see it coming, there was nothing shocking or jaw dropping, nothing to make me say ‘wow!’ Speaking to friends and colleagues, I have heard similar opinions regarding the ending. Even the final chapter felt unnecessary, too finished and closed, leaving little to the imagination.

I’ve heard various opinions, both good and bad, about the film adaptation. While the actors and actresses look nothing like those I had imagined in my mind while reading, and despite the story being set in America, rather that the British town of Witney, I am eager to give it a go.

Overall rating: A well written and gripping thriller, hyped up a little bit too much but still a great 4 stars!

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