Book Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train
Author: Paula Hawkins
Reading Level: Adult
Genres: Mystery | Thriller | Crime
Released: January 13th 2015
Review Source: Purchased

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

The Girl on The Train by British author Paula Hawkins, is a novel that debuted number one on the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers 2015. It has been compared many times to the book, and subsequent movie, Gone Girl by American author Gillian Flynn. Although I can see some similarities in theme of a darker, more twisted plot and context, I genuinely feel the similarities are like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, they are both fruit, but they both have very different tastes, textures and looks.

The Girl on The Train is about a thirty something year old woman named Rachel who rides the commuter train daily to London. During her ride, as she watches out the window, she always notices the back of a particular set of row houses at one of the stops along her way. One of the homes belongs to her ex-husband, where she used to live with him before he left her for his current wife, Anna. Another house a few doors down belong to a couple she doesn’t know, but whom she always sees outside on their back porch, and she takes an almost obsessive interest in them. She creates names for them (she refers to them as Jess and Steve) and a complete back story of what she believes their lives together must be like.

You definitely get a sense right away that Rachel is very lonely and deeply affected by the affair her ex-husband had on her with his current wife (who now lives in her old home with him and their new baby), but where things get even more intricate to the plot is that we learn early on that Rachel is an alcoholic and was actually fired from her job months prior to the opening of the story for being drunk at work. She rides the train daily as a way to hide her job loss from her roommate. One day Rachel sees something significant in regards to “Jess” as her train passes the row houses, and later when news reports reveal that “Jess”, who is really named Megan (her husband’s name is really Scott) has gone missing, Rachel emerges herself into the situation to try and help find her because she feels a real, rather inexplicable, connection with this woman.

The real interesting twists and turns in this story relate back to Rachel’s alcoholism. A lot of things she sees or remembers, or doesn’t remember for that matter, have to be taken with a grain of salt because we don’t know what is real and what is actually inaccurate do to her being intoxicated the majority of the time. There are a lot of holes in her memory due to black outs and that makes the whole unfolding of this plot, the twists and turns, and the mystery so intriguing. At times, even aside from her intoxication, I found myself wondering if she was actually mentally ill. You really want to pull for her because she is for all proses the story’s heroine, and is the main character, but you just don’t know what is real and what isn’t.

There is also a lot of side plot in regards to her ex-husband, his new wife, and how that whole situation affected Rachel and ties into her current situation, and the situation with the missing woman, Megan. The way Paula Hawkins tied all this together was pure brilliance. Every other chapter of this “What happened?” and “Who may have done it?” kept me changing my mind constantly. I never had a direct “I figured it out!” moment until the very end.

The only thing I can say that was a negative was in the beginning, until you really figure out who is who amongst the characters, it gets a little confusing because the author switches points of view each chapter (and the fact that Rachel makes up names for two of the characters in the beginning doesn’t help with the confusion of keeping things straight). Also each chapter takes place on different dates. So the dates jump from past to present and then back again throughout the book. That was a little hard to keep straight for me at first, but once I got into the story, and all of the characters were sorted out in my mind, I was completely sucked in and couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend this book and I give it 5 Stars! It’s an easy read length wise, too, so it’s a perfect book to read on vacation or on lunch breaks.

The movie rights were already purchased by Dreamworks in 2014 and actress Emily Blunt is in talks to play the leading role of Rachel. If people want to compare this book to Gone Girl then I can only say that with the success of that movie, I think this movie will do the same. So definitely jump on it now before the movie comes out!

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