Book review – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Another book everyone has been talking about during the last few months is The Girl on the Train, a thriller with a domestic, everyday idea – what if you saw something odd on your regular commute to work?
That is exactly what happens here to Rachel, who travels on the same train in to London each day, passing familiar houses, whose occupants she has started to pay attention to and for whom she has created imaginary identities. However one day, as she passes down the tracks, she sees something strange that doesn’t make sense and which becomes all the more significant when one of the women living in the street goes missing.
I certainly enjoyed this novel and found its gradual puzzle building structure held my interest and attention. You know Rachel must have seen something, but what is it and will she ever remember? Throw in to this the fact that Rachel is a divorced alcoholic and she becomes an even complex character. I know some readers didn’t like her at all, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her and her present situation.
The book’s structure also adds to its intrigue, with chapters alternating between the three women of the story – Rachel, Megan (the missing woman, in the months prior to her disappearance) and Anna, the new wife of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, now living in Rachel’s beloved home. It’s fascinating to see each one of them describing or speculating about the other women and for the reader to then see what the other person’s perspective is, particularly Rachel and Anna’s views on each other. Each woman is very different and it is great to have all three voices heard in their own right. Through their narratives we build up the puzzle piece by piece, as events are mentioned in passing, only to be given more depth later on as the mystery starts to build to a conclusion. Paula Hawkins does well to keep all the plates spinning in terms of plot and know when to provide further clues to the reader.
I did however find the book a little repetitive in places. Many of Rachel’s chapters contain her drinking problem, her confused feelings towards Tom and her repeated journeys on the train. To a certain extent this is needed to give us more insight in to Rachel’s state of mind, but I did occasionally find myself getting a bit tired of the same scenarios cropping up. I also thought that the plot did start to become a bit predictable by the end, but despite that, it is well written and had me keen to know the truth of the puzzle.
There are a number of novels that have been released recently and been categorised as “domestic noir” – thrillers that take place within ordinary domestic lives and settings. However, I think lumping so many novels in to a needless category is pointless and potentially suggests they are less credible fiction than other genres. This book has been compared to Before I Go To Sleep, Gone Girl and the recently released Disclaimer (read my review here). For me, Before I Go To Sleep remains the best, as its plot was one I hadn’t come across before and it was truly nail biting, having me unable to put it down. What is crucial, in my view however, is that all these books are extremely well written, plotted, exciting and offer us interesting and multi-layered characters.
If you are a fan of thrillers or books with an underlying mystery at its heart, which keep unravelling, no doubt this novel is already on your radar. I’d certainly say it’s worth reading and you’ll probably never gaze out of the window of a train in quite the same way again!
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is published by Doubleday and available from all the usual book stockists.