I just want to start out by saying I love, love, love The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and this book review will not do it justice no matter how much I try. I stayed up till 3:30 a.m. yesterday just to get to the ending, and I was completely satisfied. This psychological thriller is one that no one should miss out on. Hawkins’s fast-paced, first person narrative makes you read section after section without wanting to put the book down. The entire story is in present tense, which immersed me in the action as if I was experiencing it all right then and there.
In short, the book follows the lives of three women, Rachel, Anna, and Megan, who all happen to be narrators throughout the story. However, I had the sense while reading that Rachel is the true main character. Rachel, a 32-year-old divorcee, takes the train to London every day pretending she is going to work even though she was fired for getting drunk on the job months before. While on the train, she always passes by her old house where she used to live with her ex-husband, Tom, before he had the affair that ended their marriage and sent Rachel further down a spiral. Now, Tom lives in the same house with his new wife, Anna, our second narrator, and their baby daughter, Evie. Near her old house, Rachel also always looks at house number 15, where Megan, our third narrator, happens to live with her husband, Scott. Rachel looks at Megan and Scott from afar and thinks of them as the perfect couple: totally in love, happy, and perfect, everything she used to be with Tom before she discovered she couldn’t get pregnant and became an alcoholic. When Megan goes missing and on the same night that Rachel is in the neighborhood blind-drunk, Rachel feels she needs to dig inside her brain to find the misplaced memories she believes will help her figure out what happened to Megan. And that is how our thriller begins.
What I thought was interesting about the book from the beginning is the fact that Rachel is an unreliable narrator because she is an alcoholic. While we, as readers, look at her with sympathy and pity and see that somewhere inside her head is the true, sane Rachel, we cannot help at the same time but view her the way other characters view her: disheveled, crazy, erratic, stubborn. It is those conflicting views that made me want to read to the end.
At certain points throughout the book, I kept wondering if Rachel had anything to do with Megan’s disappearance, but then Rachel would interact with a secondary character and I would immediately wonder if that person is to blame. What Hawkins does best in this book is that she shows no character is perfect; each is flawed and has his or her low moments. Several characters are even emotionally and sometimes physically abusive, which made me doubt anything they said. When you combine abusive behavior in certain characters with Rachel’s alcoholism that leads to numerous blackouts, everyone in this novel becomes untrustworthy, no matter how hard you want to trust them. Without spoiling the story for you, I want to say that it was easy for me to guess the identity of the character responsible for Megan’s disappearance a few chapters into the story, and that might be because my author-brain can sniff out hints from a mile away.
Another quality about The Girl on the Train I loved is that it takes on a specific type of thriller. It is not high on action, like people chasing each other with a chainsaw and screaming bloody-murder. In fact, this book is very calm in that aspect. What makes it a thriller is that it constantly feels like a psychological mind game that can only be solved if Rachel puts together the missing puzzle pieces of her memory, and it is not until the very end that we truly see everything come together fittingly.
I encourage all bookworms to read this great novel, especially before the movie comes out in October. It is definitely worth the read! I hope this book review convinces you to read the story, and if so, leave a comment below letting me know what you are excited most about this book.
Also, be sure to check out the preview of my novel Dance with the Devil right here: