The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainHyped as this year’s ‘Gone Girl‘, ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins tells the story of Rachel Watson, who takes the same commuter train every day to London. The train always stops at a red signal where she observes a seemingly perfect couple who she names Jess and Jason in their house which is coincidentally a few doors down from where she used to live with her ex-husband, Tom. Except one day, Rachel sees something shocking from the train and becomes more closely entwined with their lives when “Jess” suddenly disappears.

To say Rachel is bitter is an understatement. She is a slightly overweight, divorced, unemployed alcoholic with very low self-esteem. Having lost her job due to one too many drunken outbursts in the office, she continues her commute to Euston station every day to prevent her housemate Cathy from discovering that she isn’t currently working. She is also still in love with her ex-husband Tom who now lives with his new partner Anna and their young child.

The main narrative is told from the point of view of Rachel and is interlinked with other chapters told in the voices of Megan (aka “Jess”) and Anna. Rachel frequently lies and has alcoholic blackouts which means she has trouble piecing together the events which lead to Megan’s disappearance. However, she certainly isn’t the only flawed character. Whereas the story of ‘Gone Girl’ was centred around two unreliable narrators, it seems that every major character in ‘The Girl on the Train’ cannot be trusted. The “leads” which I expected to go somewhere turned out not to go anywhere, so the final showdown was a real surprise.

Tightly written and cleverly structured, ‘The Girl in the Train’ has all of the ingredients for a satisfying psychological thriller. As a commuter in London myself, the main premise of the story – catching glimpses of the lives of those who live in houses which back on to railway lines and creating imaginary lives for them – was particularly appealing. Despite the numerous comparisons to ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, I think ‘The Girl on the Train’ also shares several similarities with ‘Notes on a Scandal‘ by Zoe Heller due to the contemporary suburban London setting, oppressive atmosphere and exceptionally bitter, cynical and obsessive narrator.

Overall, ‘The Girl on the Train’ is a gripping and compelling debut novel which is sure to be one of the most talked about books of 2015. If you have already read it, I would love to hear your thoughts.

‘The Girl on the Train’ will be published in the UK on 15th January by Transworld. Many thanks to the publishers for providing a review copy via NetGalley.

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

  1. I was waiting for your review! Every review I’ve read of this has been good, one excepted, and it wasn’t that bad. As you mention, it’s very well structured and tightly written, and I think we’ll see plenty of this book around – plus it’ll be interesting to see what Hawkins comes up with next – she’s a very talented writer.

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  2. I’m so excited for this one! I’ve preordered it and it’s supposed to come out here in the US on the 13th. 🙂

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  3. Great review, I have heard a lot about this book. I can see it will appeal to a lot of people but I hated Gone Girl so perhaps it won’t suit me.:)

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  4. Ooh, this sounds like something I’d enjoy 🙂

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  5. What a brilliant review – you’ve got me intrigued! I’ve heard great things about this book and I think it’s going to end up moving to the top of my TBR pile. Thanks 🙂

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  6. bendingoverbookwards

    Wow, I was worried that The Girl On The Train wouldn’t live up to the incredible hype, and I’m glad it’s so good. I’ll be picking up a copy soon! 🙂

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  7. thesoulsearching

    I just started this book today and I’m hooked already! Hawkins effortlessly interweaves the characters lives in a way that keeps me reading. Only on page 35! Will comment when I am done! Can’t wait to discuss

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  8. Thanks ALBOB. really enjoyed your review, especially pointing out that the book taps into that commuter experience.

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  9. Seen this on the shelves, without picking it up. After reading this it may move into my ‘must buy’ list. Thanks

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  10. Thanks for this review… been on & off my tbr list for a while now but I’m going to seriously move it up! Seems to be getting great reviews (as yours is), and I did love Gone girl. Have you read Daughter (Jane Shemilt)? I really enjoyed this and though it isn’t as full on, kind of in this line and hard to put down.

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  14. Thought this one was good but predictable. Haven’t read Gone Girl so couldn’t compare them the way everybody else was. It’s a good first novel but I didn’t get all the hype. I didn’t like how fast Rachel sobered up at the end. Nor did I like how pathetic the female characters were.

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