The Premise: Rachel is a girl. She rides on a train. While doing this, she takes an unhealthy interest in a couple who she often sees in their garden. When the female half of this couple goes missing, Rachel gets a bit obsessed with the whole thing and bad things happen. Oh, also, she’s an alcoholic. Oh, and also a bit crazed. Can we all say “unreliable narrator”?
Happy Bookworm: Having seen this book talked about all over the internet, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Sometimes I do this: reading a book everyone else has read so I can dislike it and feel snooty and intellectual. In the case of The Girl on the Train, I can’t disregard it so easily. Although it was definitely slightly trashy, I found myself so caught up in the story of what happened to Megan and how everyone else was involved that I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting and going to bed far too late. This was largely because I thought I knew the answer to the mystery and it seemed very important to know if I was right (I was). So the thriller-mystery aspect of the book is certainly effective.
Call me crazy, but I really liked Rachel. Although she’s a little too prone to drunken midnight phone calls to her ex, it’s hardly her fault he left her for another woman, and, as Rachel’s backstory develops, I found it impossible not to feel really sorry for her. That’s as far as my sympathy goes though; everyone else in this book is literally a monster.
Before reading, I didn’t realise there would be narrators beside Rachel, so I was surprised when Anna (“the other woman”) and Megan’s voices popped up. It helped to flesh the story out a bit, but, as all three of them had some serious reality issues, the switching narrative didn’t offer much in the way of clarity.
Sad Bookworm: The idea of a whole story populated by hideous people is only entertaining up to a point; I found myself feeling quite worn down by how awful everyone was. It didn’t feel particularly realistic; I claim to hate everyone, but secretly I believe in the innate goodness of humans, so The Girl on the Train ground me down a bit. As a throwaway thriller, it was fine, but it didn’t make me rethink my literary snobbery.
In Conclusion: I think everyone has already read this book by now, so probably my views make precisely no difference. It was fine. It won’t change your life or anything, but it’s a perfectly serviceable thriller.
2 thoughts on “Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins”
Serviceable is the perfect word in my opinion! I raced through this book even though I hated everyone in it also. I wish another thriller (The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson, also out last year) had gotten the press that this one did.