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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
Published by Riverhead ISBN 9781594633669
Hardcover, $26.95, 326 pages

Reprinted from The Citizen:

One of the most buzzed about books has published this past week. Paula Hawkins “The Girl On A Train” has been called this year’s “Gone Girl”. (It even has the word ‘girl” in the title.)

Like Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl”, “The Girl On A Train” features an unreliable narrator, a twenty-eight-year old woman named Rachel. Rachel rides the train everyday from home in Ashbury to work in London.

We get a little foreshadowing when Rachel looks outside the window on the train and sees a pile of clothing lying on the side of the train tracks. Her overactive imagination wonders what could have possibly befallen the person who belongs to those clothes.

Every day, Rachel passes by a neighborhood where she frequently sees a young, attractive couple on their terrace. She has named them Jess and Jason. She imagines Jess is involved in the arts, and Jason works for an NGO, helping poor people. Each day, the story she creates becomes more elaborate.

Slowly we get more information about Rachel. She likes to drink on the train, not only on the way home, but also on the way to work. Rachel has a serious drinking problem.  She lost her job because of her drinking, but hasn’t told anyone yet, so she takes the train everyday with nowhere to go.

We also find that Rachel’s husband had an affair, divorced her and moved his new wife into their home. Rachel was forced to rent a room in the home of a college acquaintance. She lives in a room basically, has no job, no husband and drinks too much. Life is not good for Rachel.

One day, she sees Jess on her terrace, kissing a man who is not Jason. Rachel is upset about this, for in the world she created for them they are blissfully in love. A few days later on the news she sees a photo of Jess, whose real name is Megan, and discovers that Megan has gone missing.

Rachel goes to the police to tell them what she saw. The police take her information, but have questions about her. Rachel decides that she must tell Jason, whose real name is Scott, what she saw.
Her only hesitation in seeing Scott is that her old home, the one that now houses her ex-husband, his mistress-now-wife, and their young daughter, is just four doors away from Scott and Megan.

When Rachel gets drunk, she calls Tom, her ex, and cries. His new wife, Anna, has had enough of Rachel’s harassment, but Tom still seems to care for Rachel. He says he is sorry for what has happened, and wants Rachel to be happy and move on with her life.

Rachel goes to Scott and tells him that she was friends with Megan, and she saw Megan kiss another man the day before she disappeared. Scott is devastated, and while he wonders why he never heard Megan mention Rachel, he begins to question if he really knew his wife.

The story is told from the perspective of Rachel, Anna and Megan. Megan’s dead body is found near her home, and the race is on to find her killer. Of course, the husband is a prime suspect, as is the man Rachel saw kissing Megan on the terrace.

Rachel insinuates herself into the police investigation. She meets with the boyfriend, and becomes closer to Scott. Anna doesn’t like Rachel hanging around her and Tom’s neighborhood, and wants Tom to cut all ties with Rachel.

On the night that Megan went missing, Rachel was in the neighborhood, very drunk, stumbling, and Tom found her bloody and dazed under an underpass. She had a bump on her head, and remembers nothing after leaving the train stop. Did she see who killed Megan?

Careful readers may pick up a few of the clues Hawkins has placed to figure out who killed Megan, and there is a “holy cow” moment halfway through the story that explains a character’s motivations.

“The Girl On The Train” is a fast-moving, heart-pounding thriller that keeps the reader on the edge of her seat, particularly the tension-filled last chapter. Fans of “Gone Girl” will like it, but it also reminded me of another terrific book with an unreliable narrator, “The Other Typist”.  You can’t trust anyone’s memory or motive.

rating 4 of 5 stars 

This book satisfies my Book Set In A Different Country for Reading Challenge 2015


  1. I read this, too. So I know that Rachel, as a raging alcoholic, is delusional. The reader cannot trust anything she thinks she sees.

    This book is receiving more hype than it deserves, thanks to the publisher, Riverhead But, after all this hype, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN may disappoint. While it does keep your attention, it isn't as unputdownable as claimed until the last couple of chapters. It wasn't for me.

    Rachel has opinions about people that are often based on nothing and are always wrong, delusional. The entire book is about her alcoholic blackouts and figuring out what really happened.

    Some things about this book are aggravating. For instance, during tense moments, characters, especially Rachel, bite their lips, often so hard they draw blood. I could just imagine all the people walking around with bloody mouths they had chewed.

    The biggest aggravation is difficult to describe without saying too much and spoiling the story. It has to do with how everything is explained in the end. It is too easy, too convenient, too hard to swallow.

    Yet, even considering these and other faults, the book kept my attention more than a lot of other books, so it deserves high marks for that..

  2. I haven't read this yet ... will likely wait a bit until the buzz dies down.

  3. I liked it! It was a quick read and kept my attention. I did have an idea on how it ended ,but that's okay. It was a fun read.