The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins {book review}


This debut suspense/psychological thriller by Paula Hawkins created a ton of buzz before it was published. It was immediately compared to ‘Gone Girl’ (Gillian Flynn) and ‘Before I go to Sleep’ (S.J. Watson) and quickly became the must read of the year. Or so it seemed. Naturally, I wanted to know what the hype was all about and an ecopy was soon sent my way.* Having just recently read ‘Gone Girl’, that book was fresh enough in my mind that I couldn’t help but make comparisons. Obviously, these books aren’t exactly the same, so is it a fair assessment to like one over the other? I don’t know. However, I love this genre. It takes seemingly everyday people and places them in events where the truth is murky, and as a reader you’re not sure who to believe. Naturally, when you’re introduced to a “main” character, that’s whose story you want to believe. At least that’s what I tend to do.

The protagonist of “The Girl on the Train” is a commuter in London named Rachel. She is introduced to us as a lonely, down on her luck kind of a woman, who drinks too much and is still pining for her ex-husband, Tom. Along the way we learn that Rachel is still obsessed with Tom and has had a few run-ins with Tom and his new wife, Anna. This whole scenario doesn’t make for a happy person, so it’s no surprise that Rachel has become enamoured with a couple who she only knows by passing their house on the commuter train. The couple whom Rachel names “Jason and Jess” appear to be the ideal version of wedded bliss. As the story unfolds, “Jess” disappears and Rachel feels she has the answers about what happened, but they are clouded after a night of drinking. Soon, the mystery becomes an obsession.

After a bit of a struggle getting into this book (I don’t know why as I’ve read many British books in the past), I finally got to the point where I just couldn’t put it down! I can’t say that any of the characters were too likeable – I’m still not sure how I feel about Rachel. But, I appreciate her perseverance in learning the truth and finding a way to crawl back from her bleak life. I think she had to be this way in order for the story to unfold.

For me, this book was another one that had me thinking long after I put it down. It’s just so hard to believe – yet, I’m sure it happens – that people really act like this. There’s a lot of cheating, deception and malice to be found in psychological thrillers, and “The Girl” does not disappoint. Do I like that about this genre? Yes and no. Maybe it’s the whole point. It’s like a car accident you come across while driving – you can’t help but turn your head and look. I think most people want to know why others act so unseemly – what drives them to it? What’s their motivation? Are they truly bad people? So many questions, and with books like these, you don’t always get the answers. You’re left to come to conclusions yourself, good or bad.
It sometimes makes you want to scream. Or, you get yourself to the nearest book club, online forum, or wherever else people might be chatting about this book, and start talking! Share ideas! It’s *that* kind of book. So compelling, that I can’t help but recommend it.

Have you read “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins? How did you feel about it (without revealing any spoilers)? Did it compare, in your mind, to either “Gone Girl” or “Before I go to Sleep”?
And finally, what did you think of the conclusion? I will say now that I liked the conclusion more than I was expecting. It was interesting and *somewhat* satisfying. Not entirely, but I’ll take it.

I hope we see more books from Paula Hawkins, especially in this genre. I’m sure we will.

*Note: I looked at borrowing a copy from my local library system, but well over a 1000 holds had been placed. That’s the sign of an anticipated book!


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