Book Review: The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

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

The Girl on the Train

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?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

***

Wow. This was an incredibly unsettling book – and I mean that in the best possible way.

The narrative is split between 3 women: Rachel, Anna and Megan.

The story is mainly from Rachel’s viewpoint, the girl on the train. Spurned by her ex-husband, Tom, who now lives a seemingly cosy life with his new wife (and former mistress), Anna, and their young daughter, Rachel has sought solace at the bottom of a bottle, and her life has taken a nose dive in recent years. With everything in tatters around her, Rachel takes comfort in the routine of her daily journey to and from London on the train. She watches the houses and people she passes, as many people do, and has even started to make up names and lives for some of them, particularly ‘Jason and Jess.’ She has built up a perfect life for this couple – carefree and in love, and all the things her and Tom were meant to be.

When she witnesses something that starts to shatter the fantasy she has built, Rachel is deeply disturbed and, unable to let things lie, finds herself getting involved. But with drunken blackouts and hazy memories both commonplace in Rachel’s life, she’s not exactly a reliable or trustworthy witness. Paula has done a truly fantastic job with Rachel’s character as protagonist. She is unpredictable and unreliable, she possesses multiple undesirable traits, and yet I couldn’t help finding her somewhat endearing. There’s a sort of earnest about, so that even when I wasn’t sure I could trust her, I was willing her to be right, to be honest and to be acting with the best intentions.

Anna just wants to settle into her new life with husband and baby without any interference from Tom’s ex-wife, who won’t leave him alone, and Megan’s life isn’t quite as perfect as it may outwardly seem.

There is not a single character in the plot who you can altogether trust, and I found my loyalty was constantly shifting throughout the story, as more information was slowly filtered in – some seemingly helpful and some making you question everything you’d thought thus far. Either way, it had me greedily reading each page as quickly as possible to find out what happened, raising the questions: what happens behind closed doors? who doesn’t have secrets? who can you really trust? and when you’re losing your memory to alcohol-induced amnesia, can you even trust yourself?

This book was marvellously mysterious, with a thrilling increase of pace throughout as the tension increased. A must read for the psychological thriller lover – easily set to be the Gone Girl of 2015.

Rating: star-ratingstar-ratingstar-ratingstar-ratingstar-rating

Release date: 15 January 2015
Publisher: Transworld Books
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Goodreads

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One thought on “Book Review: The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

  1. Pingback: Book Releases: 15th January 2015 | Paris Baker's Book Nook

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