Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Pub. Date: January 13th, 2015
Pages: 336

Genre: Contemporary Mystery/Thriller



Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. 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 goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?  

What Did I Think About the Story?

I went into reading The Girl on the Train with some trepidation. So many people have read this book and lauded it as the "next Gone Girl", a book I really enjoyed, so I was prepared to be disappointed. I also read a number of reviews stating the characters were just horrible and not worth caring about, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'm so glad I set my concerns aside and picked up the book because I absolutely loved following along with Rachel as she tried to decipher her memories and figure out what really happened to the "Jess" girl she had been watching from the train.

The set up of the novel was great, with each chapter going back and forth in time and being told from the point of view of one of three characters: Rachel, a sad alcoholic with a tendency to not only make up fantasies within her own head but black out and lose whole stretches of time; Megan, the girl Rachel sees from the train that goes missing one day; and  Anna, the new wife of Rachel's ex-husband and neighbor of Megan. Each character's point of view gives us bits and pieces of what has happened not only currently (with Megan's disappearance) but in each of their pasts. This sort of tentative release of information built a delicious anticipation, and this combined with seeing Rachel's lost memories of the night Megan goes missing slowly resurface, made for a wonderful whodunit.

While I will agree that there are no "innocent" characters in this story, whether that be these three women or the men in their lives, I never felt like I didn't care what happened to them. This is especially true with Rachel, who I couldn't help but root for and hope she would get the  help she  needed to stop drinking and move on from the dreams of her past "happy life". I've never been one to discount a whole story based solely on unsympathetic characters and I loved how complicated and real (if highly dysfunctional) the characters in The Girl on the Train were.

Now, the big mystery regarding Megan's disappearance. I'll admit I somehow guessed what really happened and who was involved pretty early on. With so many characters having a myriad of issues and dislikeable characteristics I channeled my inner Scooby Doo and went with the character I thought seemed the least likely and, lo and behold, I was right! Even with guessing the inevitable outcome I still very much enjoyed watching how the story would unfold and how the various clues would eventually fall into place. And there were still some elements I didn't even think about that make the ending that much more interesting.

I found The Girl on the Train to be a quick and enjoyably twisty tale. I can definitely see why this has been compared so often to Gone Girl as our main character and her memories are about as unreliable as they come. After finishing this one I've definitely been put in the mood for more mysteries like this, and I'm now on high alert for the next book by the author.


What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's okay. It definitely represents the book in a couple of ways, most obviously being the view from a fast moving train. However, for me, it also can represent the hazy view Rachel has in general, both due to her alcoholism and her tendency towards creating her own fantasies about her life and those around her in her head, as well as the hazy nature of her memories of the events discussed in the book. Not necessarily eye catching but still a well represented cover.

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

I purchased a copy of The Girl on the Train for my own library and all opinions expressed above are my own. You can find more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads.

* I read The Girl on the Train as a buddy read with some other blogger friends of mine. Please find links to their reviews below *

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. I've decided (based on this book and Gone Girl), that psychological thrillers are decidedly not my thing. Although I found them both to be super fast and tantalizing reads, I couldn't get that bad taste out of my mouth. I can't explain it.
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review
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